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Cooler Master HAF-XB Computer Case Enclosure E-mail
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Written by David Ramsey   
Monday, 12 November 2012
Table of Contents: Page Index
Cooler Master HAF-XB Computer Case Enclosure
Closer Look: Exterior
Closer Look: Interior
Building a System
Final Thoughts and Conclusion

Computer Case Final Thoughts

Although the design of the Cooler Master HAF XB is unusual, it's not unique. Lian Li's PC-343B case uses a similar design, as do custom cases like the Mountain Mods U2-UFO series. But these cases are very expensive, with the Lian Li going for $300 and the Mountian Mods cases for potentially much more, depending on the options you choose. The HAF XB, in contrast, costs only $99.99.

Cooler Master pitches this case as a "LAN box/test bed", which initially sounds silly: LAN boxes are supposed to be small and easy to transport, while test bed cases are generally open-air designs with dangling cables and bits that make transporting them clumsy when they're loaded with components. I was surprised to find, however, that Cooler Master's assertions are completely valid: the rigid steel frame and large handholds in the side panels make carrying the case much easier than carrying a traditional tower case of the same weight, and although it wouldn't be my first choices for a test bed case, it takes only seconds to remove the slide-off top and side panels and gain full access to most of the components you'd need access to in a test situation. In fact I used the case for a test bed for my AMD FX-8350 CPU review and the ease of swapping out the processor in this design made it a good choice.


Given the price and features of the case, it might seem picky to complain, but I would have liked to see an eigth card slot, since there's plenty of room for it; and a few more front panel ports would have been nice, too. And although there's an easily removable filter for the power supply air intake, the front panel fan filter is non-removable and built into the front panel, which requires that you remove the top and side panels to clean it. Last, I'm disappointed that there's no easy way to accomodate a 3.5" device like a card reader or fan controller in one of the 5.25" bays; and the inability to secure both sides of a 5.25" device means that even 5.25" non-drive devices won't work well.

But these are minor complaints. The design of the case means the entire width of your motherboard area receives airflow from the front fans; it has plenty of room for most builds, its design confers a number of advantages, and best of all it's priced very reasonably.

HAF XB Conclusion

A computer case's main purpose is simply to hold your components. Beyond that, there are other considerations, but these will vary depending upon the use you put the system to. For example, thermal management and airflow isn't very important in a low-powered HTPC system, but is critical for high performance systems. And if you're building a high performance system, you've probably checked out Cooler Master's other HAF series cases, all of which are designed to provide high air flow. However, while a traditional tower design places the drive bays between the front fans and the rest of the system, airflow from the HAF XB's front fans has an unobstructed path across the width of the motherboard. This is one of the very best cases I've ever seen for air cooled systems, rivalled only by some of Silverstone's Raven and FT cases with their rotated motherboard design.

The HAF XB shares its "industrial look" with the rest of Cooler Master's HAF series, continuing the line's blocky surface detailing and flat black coloration. It is a striking case only because of its unusual shape, and probably only computer geeks will be impressed visually...most people will see it as just some black lump. One aesthetic point is dust collection on the front panel: there's visible dust on the front panel of my unit after only a week of use on a desktop in a relatively low-dust environment.

As you might expect from Cooler Master, the construction quality was very good. All the parts fit smoothly, and the steel design is very strong. With the top and side panels off, the temptation is to pick up the case by grabbing one of the top rails, but don't worry: even a single rail is easily strong enough to bear the weight of an entire loaded system with no discernible flexing.

The HAF XB is more functional than most tower cases, especially if you include things like "ease of transport" and "ease of access to the motherboard components" in your definition of "functional." Some might argue that it's easier to get at the motherboard in a tower case with hinged, swing open doors, or at least as easy if the tower case side panels come off easily. But then you're left with the reality of a tower case: the motherboard's positioned vertically, and that makes getting components in and out harder than it is when the motherboard's laying flat. That's the reason why you'll never see a test bed case that mounts the motherboard vertically. The only functional concession this case design makes is the limited number of 3.5" and 5.25" devices you can have, and even so, the ability to add four 2.5" devices helps if you need more hard drive room. This is also the least expensive case I've seen with hot swap drive bays.

The value: ah, the value. I admit I was surprised by the relatively low cost of this case. For what you're getting, I think $99.99 is a screaming deal; I have reviewed other cases at a similar price point that offer nowhere near this level of function and convenience. Cooler Master's HAF series has always been about a good price/performance ratio, but I think this one hits it out of the park.

If you've the desk space for it, and you like easy transport of and access to your full ATX system, this is the best case on the market for you now.

Pros:Benchmark Reviews Golden Tachometer Award

+ Unusual, visually interesting design
+ Exceptional air flow across the full width of the motherboard
+ Hot swap bays for two 3.5" drives
+ Easier to build a neat system
+ Very sturdy construction
+ Actually can be used both as LAN box and test bed
+ Excellent price/performance


- Only two front USB ports
- Only seven PCI slots
- No easy way to accomodate non-optical drive devices in 5.25" bays
- Takes up a lot of room on your desk
- Must remove front panel to clean its dust filter


  • Presentation: 9.00
  • Appearance: 8.50
  • Construction: 9.75
  • Functionality: 9.75
  • Value: 9.75

Final Score: 9.35 out of 10.

Excellence Achievement: Benchmark Reviews Golden Tachometer Award.

Benchmark Reviews invites you to leave constructive feedback below, or ask questions in our Discussion Forum.

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# Whoa!Chris 2012-11-13 04:51
Thank you Cooler Master for thinking, wait....

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# Good designRealNeil 2012-11-13 06:29
I like this case. There are a lot of cool features packed into it. I also think that the price is reasonable too.
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# Better rethink that scoreMugsy 2012-11-13 19:57
A "9.35"? You're kidding, right?

First off, the large footprint is a non-starter. Less room on your desk and you can't put anything on top of it because you'll obstruct the top vent. Can't put it on a lower shelf either for the same reason. Just dumb.

I hate cases that put the PSU on the bottom. Restricting airflow to the something that needs more air than any other component to cool? Dumb again. Cool thing it supports water cooling. You're gonna need it.

Case fans that blow right on your slots disrupt the cooling effectiveness of your vidcard fans. A definite no-no. NEVER put fans where they can blow on each other.

Yes, there are some very nice features with this case, and the accessibility is great too, but a "9.35"? Forgetaboudit.
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# RE: Better rethink that scoreDavid Ramsey 2012-11-13 21:04
I guess you'd better not buy this case, then...
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# don't even lookI.F. 2012-11-14 11:23
1: The PSU is lifted from the bottom by like and inch on a built in piece in the case to avoid the PSU not being able to get good air.

2: There are no case fans blowing where the video cards would be so that isn't even an issue.

3: If you don't like the size or shape of this case then it is not made for you, you don't have to comment with ridiculous facts that can easily be proven wrong by someone that took the initiative to look at the product. ( This isn't an android vs apple debate )
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# RE: don't even lookMugsy 2012-11-14 11:36
1) One inch of clearance is insufficient for an exhaust fan that blows around 20cfm.

2) There are clearly two inward blowing case fans blowing directly on the slots clearly visible in the photo.

3) My only issue was the high "9.35" rating. I never said it wasn't a good case for certain enthusiasts.

Please don't lecture me on "ridiculous" with a response like that.
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# RE: RE: don't even lookDavid Ramsey 2012-11-14 13:05
I'm confused by your concern about the power supply air flow. The power supply I used was a standard setup, with a 120mm INTAKE fan that, when installed in this case, faces downwards and sucks are in through the filter on the bottom of the case. EXHAUST air goes out the rear of the power supply and is not blocked in any way.

Like most modern power supplies, the fan is thermostatically controlled, and will audibly spin up when the power supply gets hot. Since this would happen were the air flow into the power supply noticeably occluded, I would have noticed it, and it hasn't. It could be because I'm not pulling enough power to warm the supply noticeably, but since most of the industry has moved to bottom mount supplies, I don't think there's any kind of endemic problem with them.

The bottom-mount systems I don't like are ones like Antec uses in some of their cases, where the power supply intake fan must face up, into the case, by design. This makes it amazingly easy to drop small screws into the power supply.
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# RE: RE: RE: don't even lookMugsy 2012-11-14 13:39
I write only as someone that has had extensive trouble with air cooling, and lack of space in front of an intake fan reduces airflow (sometimes referred to as "negative density airflow", and while usually not an issue for most people, for others (like me) every bit of restricted airflow hurts (whether it's exhaust or intact does not matter).

Likewise, on the slots, I was having difficulty cooling my video card until I realized one of my side fans was blowing directly on my vidcard fan, disrupting its rotation and causing it to turn slower than needed. Only after much head-scratching did I discover removal of my side fan fixed the problem.

If I were to improve this case, I'd put the psu in the top so it sucks heat off the MB (heat rises), place a large low-speed intake fan in the top (as designed), and move the two side intake fans to the other sides of the case (one under each handle, parallel the slots) blowing heat out the sides instead of blowing in.
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: don't even lookDavid Ramsey 2012-11-14 14:01
Your experiences have been different from mine. I can only image what kind of leaf-blower you had aimed at your video card!
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: don't even lookMugsy 2012-11-14 14:49
Two side-mount 80mm's blowing on a card not 1 inch away was all it took (not unlike the XB). Disrupted my vidcard's fan rotation and increased temps by about 10'C.

Live & Learn.
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# you really should just stopgpharman 2012-11-18 09:09
You sound moreand more like you don't know anything about building computers the more you talk. You should just stop now and call it a day. This case has more than adequate airflow. The only thing that concerns me with this case is the CPU sits directly over the PSU. There is a cutaway in MB tray for aftermarket cooler that gives a direct line of site to PSU. That said most high end GPUs and PSU will exhaust out back of case. Intake fans normally are meant to move air with little noise. I would probably add a few quiet exhuast fans (2x80mm for lower compartment)and either (1x120mm for upper compartment, or 1x200mm for top of case) depending on the CPU cooler used. Most modern graphics cards have shielded fans and exhaust casing so they are pretty much self contained themselves. If your GPU does not have this, then it is certainly time to upgrade to the 2000's. I have never in 18 years of building high end computers run across the issues you are describing. I can't even pcture what you are doing to cause those issues. They would have to be some serious cfm rated fans to alter the fan on the gpu. I am laughing reading your comments because I am just trying to imagine what kind of jerry rigged setup you are running. I just picture this store bought case with holes cut into it with some type of makeshift vacuum motor blowing hot exhaust directly onto the gpu fan with enough force to litterally stop it and cause it to move backwards. That is just too funny..I do like the leaf blower reference.
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# RE: you really should just stopMugsy 2012-11-18 09:58
Not sure if I should dignify this with a response.

I've been building PC's for over a decade (two?). And I find it more than a tiny bit ridiculous to criticize my criticism, only to then note a half dozen criticisms of the design yourself.

My ONLY complaint was that the case is not deserving such a HIGH rating. Your mileage may vary.
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# RE: you really should just stopdavid 2012-11-18 16:28
I took my case off my 460gtx nvidia card and put a intel cpu fan and runs way cooler also the front 120s blow across it and it ran even cooler with them pointed at the card so mugsy is not all there.
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# RE: RE: you really should just stopMugsy 2012-11-18 19:52
You don't seem to understand what I was describing. There's a BIG difference between multiple fans blowing "across" the surface of your cards, and a two fans blowing COUNTER to one another, reducing its spin rate and overall efficiency.

In this particular case, there are two inward blowing fans right in front of the slots, while most fan-cooled cards blow outward to EXHAUST heat FROM the case. Depending on your card design, having a fan blow against your exhaust fan will only prevent it from venting. There should not be a fan near the card slots at all unless it is somehow positioned BEHIND them (like a front case fan) and blowing the air out IN THE SAME DIRECTION as any cooling fans you may have on those cards.

I find I keep having to explain basic simple physics to people that are quick to insult over things they clearly don't understand.
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# RE: RE: RE: don't even lookdavid 2012-11-18 16:20
I always put a cover over my psu in my antec just so I dont drop anything in it. That is good observation on your part. I thought I was the only one that took that into consideration. And im sure that box is easy to pick up and far more stable in a home with children playing.
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# RE: Better rethink that scoreDavid Ramsey 2012-11-13 21:21
FWIW, my own tests with the Silverstone Fortress FT02 case-- which has fans that blow onto the video cards in the same direction as the HAF XB fans-- show that increasing the fan speed can drop video card temps substantially. Details here (scroll down to the "GTX480 temperatures" table):
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# RE: RE: Better rethink that scoreMugsy 2012-11-14 04:50
There's a difference between blowing directly on the SURFACE of the video card and PERPENDICULAR to it as it does in the HAF-XB so that it counters the vidcard's exhaust fan.
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# RE: RE: RE: Better rethink that scoreDavid Ramsey 2012-11-14 08:02
Granted, but both cases blow air onto the cards from the same direction...

I've tested a fair number of cases with various video card cooling fan arrangements. Some have been more effective than others, but I've yet to run across one that made the cards warmer than they would have been otherwise.
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# Huwahh? Perpendicular airflow interference?Steven Moeller 2013-02-05 11:45
Okay, I'm not sure what you mean when you say perpendicular air flow countering a video card's exhaust fan. I'm only familiar with two exhaust fan designs, the blower fan and the axial fan.

Blower fans suck air into a fully enclosed channel from the top of the fan, pushing the air across the components or across a heat sink until it exhausts outside the case via slots or holes around the monitor connection ports. When installed in a typical case the top of this fan is actually facing downwards to suck cool air up into it.

Axial fans are usually placed atop a heat sink which isn't fully enclosed and push air from the top of the fan down across the heat sink and the underlying components. When installed in a typical case, these fan's are again "upside down" moving air from below up and over the heat sink and then through the case towards the! top of the case rather than venting through a channel.

In both situations a side panel fan would be blowing perpendicular to these fans in a typical case, and is generally considered a good thing in both instances, by bringing cool air to them. Only a very powerful fan with high RPMs would be able to interfere with the spinning of a video card fan, and would likely be better used as a rear exhaust fan or front intake fan. I have a Cooler Master Storm Sniper Black that has a 200mm side panel fan which provides a lot of air flow to the video cards because of it's size, not it's RPMs. If you had the problem you described, I can only assume because you used a fan that was too powerful in the side panel, or because the video card had a poor quality fan design.
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# Push Pullgpharman 2012-11-18 08:49
Only a person with no tech experience would ever have fans blowing in on each other. Pull through front, blow out back and top. It is compartmentalized split into two levels, nothing is blowing onto video cards or processor except front two fans. Draw through front, and out back and top. Not sure you know what you are talking about or if you are just always a troll. Either way you either shouldn't buy this case or give technical advice, because you don't sound like you know anything about either.
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# RE: Push PullMugsy 2012-11-18 10:03
Since you seem to agree having fans "blow on each other" is a bad idea, maybe you should be asking WHY this case design does just that?
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# RE: Better rethink that scoreChris 2012-12-12 12:41
You could dependind how low your desk is get a monitor mount and clamp it to the desk or mount the monitor on the wall then you can fit it under the monitor as I say depends how low the desk is. I have one of those old metal desks from the 50' but im going to build a stand that sits over my printer and set it up there. I have a brother printer that is the same with as the case.
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# RE: Cooler Master HAF-XB Computer Case Enclosurefedge 2012-11-17 07:55
This is more flexible than many realize. Put in a 5 1/4 sized 3.5 hdd 3bay device.. I have one in wifes comp. 3 hdd in the space of 2 5 1/4 bays.. then you got a MASSIVE raid/media server///... connect a blueray drive (external)((I got a pioneer bluray burner in a esata box.)) with an esata port, any good mobo your putting in there should have one, will work fine for movies even I would think. Then just put the drive swawy from the computer.

I really don't use my drives too often, if they were external dvd or bluray it would be the same to me.

"just stepping from the box"
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# RE: Cooler Master HAF-XB Computer Case EnclosureSlitWeaver 2012-11-18 18:56
Do you think a COOLER Master Hyper 212 would fit in this case? Need to know before I buy.
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# RE: RE: Cooler Master HAF-XB Computer Case EnclosureDavid Ramsey 2012-11-18 19:34
Well, as you can see from the case specs in this review, Cooler Master says CPU coolers up to 180mm high will fit. And as you can see from the Details tab on the Newegg product page at the link you posted, the Hyper 212 is 158.5mm high.

So yes, it will fit.
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# RE: RE: RE: Cooler Master HAF-XB Computer Case EnclosureSlitWeaver 2012-11-18 19:36
Ah, of course. My bad, my bad.
Thanks! :P
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# RE: RE: RE: Cooler Master HAF-XB Computer Case EnclosureCasey 2012-11-21 01:13
I have a similar question, but with one addition. I have a 160.5mm heatsink, and my question is, will it fit with a 200mm fan attached to the top panel? Was looking at this fan: Do you think that would fit with my heatsink? If not, would you have a suggestion on another fan that might?

P.S. current heatsink
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: Cooler Master HAF-XB Computer Case EnclosureDavid Ramsey 2012-11-21 07:37
As you can see from the photos, the fan mount in the top panel is recessed. Cooler Master did not provide a 200mm fan, but my assumption would be that the fan would fit within the recess and not intrude on the components below. According to the Newegg link you provided, the fan is 30mm thick, which seems to match up well with the depth of the recess in the lid.
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: Cooler Master HAF-XB Computer Case EnclosureBryan 2012-12-08 14:33
I have this case along with a hyper 212 plus and a 200MM cooler master fan. No the fan will not clear the heatsink which is a problem. the top panel cannot be closed. Minor oversight by CM? I emailed CM to see what they will do for me.
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: Cooler Master HAF-XB Computer Case EnclosureBryan 2012-12-12 11:08
OK, so CM got back to me after 5 days, the maximum cpu cooler height if you install the 200MM top fan is only 155MM, NOT 180MM as advertised. They didn't offer to send me a lower profile cooler or exchange w/my 212 plus. Just a link for me to buy a Hyper N520 from them. Gee thanks. This isn't in any of the documentation, or even on their fancy dedicated XB website. Who would buy this case and not install a top fan? Poor customer support as well IMO.
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# RE: RE: Cooler Master HAF-XB Computer Case EnclosureSteven Moeller 2013-02-08 15:42
This thing would fit a Noctua NH-D14, which is arguably one of the larger coolers, with ease. The case is a huge mother. I've got friend who is already modding the exterior to look like a truck.
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# This WEIRD heatsink and fan...SlitWeaver 2012-12-09 13:44
Recently I came across this:

heatsink+fan and was wondering what you (or anybody) thought about it going into this case. Would it work well because the air blown down would then get pushed out the back of the case?
Thanks in advance,
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# RE: This WEIRD heatsink and fan...David Ramsey 2012-12-09 14:18
It would work well enough if you weren't overclocking or in an unusually warm environment, but it's certainly less optimal an arrangement than a cooler that would blow out the back. If you had one laying around and didn't want to spend any more money, that's one thing, but it doesn't make any sense to buy that cooler for a new build in this case.
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# ChrisChris 2012-12-11 16:17
I just ordered this case I was happy with my 912 but I removed so much out of the case that it wasnt funny. to much dead space in the full towers and to many things blocking air flow in mid size cases. For over clockers its a good case becuse you can take panels of to use it as a testing bench. Even if your just testing then moving the components to another case. I love the hot swaps and ssd bays. I like how the drives and main components are seperated. I see that the heat will rise of your board and move up. So im using a big fan on top to pull up and have most of the fans to push air in. I have a liqud cooler from the cpu to push out the back. Only thing to note is the cards will be sideways. Might increase card fans for extra cooling I don't over clock my cards honestly 2 gig video memory on a 660 TI awsome card runs eveything on high some even on ultra. Rams not a big issue to me I actualy find that the heat sinks on ram chips do more harm than good. Creating hotspots in the chip thus shorting there life span. I have two one TB hhd's and one Intel SSD im happy to have the os on the ssd. Soon I will get an ssd for my steam games well just my favorites now that steam enabled multi drive support.Im glad to see the gaming pc taking a new form and I have one cable to my monitor and one to the HDTV I can enjoy my games in the office and the living room. To belive I used to have a Silverstone Raven Case you talk about a massive pain in the butt to take to a LAN party I had a red cart to wheel it to the party.
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# RE: Cooler Master HAF-XB Computer Case EnclosureRobert Duran 2012-12-14 17:17
We have so many devices that we access data from these days. It is not just our computer anymore. Many people are using their smartphone or tablet as their only device for computer enclosure. While these devices can do what many people want them do they are limited at how much storage space they actually have. Wireless storage is nothing new, network attached storage devices have been out for quite a long time, but they also lack one thing?portability.
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# i could be wrong but...Taulbee Design 2013-02-05 11:43
first of i am an artist and not a pro builder but to me it sounds like you need to step up to water cooling set ups mugsy i don't doubt your knowledge i just don't agree with your assessment of this case how ever air flow in any case has issues and this case with a few mods(which in my opinion is the fun part) you can water cool your cpu 2 vid cards and north and south bridge...even ram if you find the right blocks...just may take modding...i bought this case for a friend and presently we only plan to wc the cpu with a self contained system but you can can add a rad to this case with some mods...but if you want a case you can hide in a shelf or *cringe* stack stuff on it then this just may not be your case...there are loads of options with this case.....mod it make it your own... me, i am excited to see how far i can take this case and loaded it up till..well just ain't the same case lol but that's just my fun in building...
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# RE: Cooler Master HAF-XB Computer Case EnclosureBill Swindell 2013-02-06 15:54
I like this type of design. Needs more work, (I/O ports). Been searching the net for more like it.
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# I like this type of design.Steven Moeller 2013-02-08 15:35
Check this out this chassis, then. It's a Micro-ATX/Mini-ITX Box Chassis, and I've built around 10 systems using these. No customer complaints yet, and the small size seems to really appeal to people.
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