Cooler Master put its new midsize MasterBox-family PC case, the MasterBox MB350P, on the cutting edge of PC DIY trendiness by loading it with three panes of tempered glass and a tower of addressable RGB (ARGB) LED fans. The new, brightly colored fans won’t connect to the bulk of motherboards on the market (ARGB support is very new), but a built-in controller ensures that you can power and adjust the lights regardless of your motherboard model. And with a price of $ 109.99, the MB350P makes it very tempting to see what all the ARGB fuss is about. PC builders looking to deck out a tower of glow-and-glass will find this a fine value.
The Design: Radical Transparency
Most ATX cases also support smaller motherboard sizes, but not all support both MicroATX and Mini-ITX. The MasterBox MB350P handles all three sizes, making it a versatile PC case. Although gamers will be attracted to the MasterBox MB350P in spades, I can see how many DIYers would like this case for a home-entertainment PC, too. Those systems can get by on smaller motherboards.
If you liked older models in Cooler Master’s MasterBox series, the new designs will probably feel like a natural progression to you. The MasterBox MB350P retains the sturdy, hard-cornered shape of previous models, but it sports a revamped front face that showcases your front intake fans while providing plenty of (somewhat hidden) space for airflow.
Because the MasterBox MB350P is a mid-size tower, it doesn’t take up an unreasonable amount of desk space. The case measures 18.5 by 9 by 19.25 inches (HWD). As narrow across as the case looks, those 9 inches buy you plenty of breathing room, including cable-management space behind the motherboard tray and decent clearance between your video card and the side panel.
Before I dig further into the case’s internals, I have a few thoughts about the exterior. The front panel would look great even with a standard clear-plastic slab, but the tempered-glass panel’s smoky look is a real head-turner, especially when paired with the pulsing colors of the ARGB fans. The slanted front panel leaves room for large intake grilles, all of which have a mesh filter to keep out debris.
The front panel’s sloped design creates an excellent spot for the power button and ports. Cooler Master opted for two USB 2.0, two USB 3.0, and two audio ports here. It also added a button that lets you control the lighting for the MasterBox MB350P’s ARGB fans. You press it repeatedly to cycle through modes, which range from static to pulsing.
Cooler Master opted for tempered-glass side panels, as well. Glass side panels can be tricky to handle because they’re much more fragile than typical metal panels. They’re also heavier and prone to collecting fingerprints on the inside, which you only notice when you’ve built out the PC and fired it up. And, I’m sad to say, I know from experience that glass windows can shatter spectacularly when dropped. Luckily, I hung onto the MasterBox MB350P’s panels without incident.
The tempered glass isn’t dark enough to obscure your PC’s components, particularly if they have built-in lighting. The glass is a great feature for the MasterBox MB350P’s left side (assuming you’re facing the case from the front), providing a window into the PC. I’d say that it’s among the best tempered-glass panels I’ve seen and handled, based on its transparency and the ease with which I can attach it to the case.
I’m not as excited about the other side panel, which exposes an area traditionally hidden in PC cases: the area behind the motherboard tray. This is where all but the most demanding of us DIYers tend to let aesthetics slide. It’s not unusual for the area behind the power supply to have a rat’s-nest look, nor do we shoot for perfection when running cables along the tray. It’s the DIYer’s behind-the-scenes space—until you put a glass panel over it.
To its credit, Cooler Master did more than just drop a glass panel on the case’s side. The company bills the MasterBox MB350P as “Showroom Ready” and clearly put thought into how this area should look. It did DIYers a favor by adding a removable metal cover that hides a sizable chunk of the cabling. It also ensured that your SSDs are visible, which will get the attention of users who have invested heavily in their storage and want to show off the hardware. So, the third tempered panel is an asset, if you want to show off all of your PC’s components and if you’re willing to be extra-diligent about cable management.
Take off the MasterBox MB350P’s right side panel, and you’re looking at the motherboard tray. The “floor” of the interior is particularly close to where you’ll install an ATX motherboard because the MB350P has a power-supply compartment that separates it from this side of the case. Cooler Master puts cable passthroughs (with rubber grommets, a nice touch) near the motherboard tray and the power-supply compartment, giving you plenty of options for sneaking wires in from the other side.
The power-supply compartment also has a large cutout near the front of the case to accommodate your liquid-cooling gear. The MasterBox MB350P supports radiators from 120mm to 360mm up front without making you sacrifice those shiny ARGB intake fans. The top of the case supports radiators in 120mm or 240mm varieties, and the back of the case handles just 120mm radiators (which is typical). The case ships with a 120mm fan mounted in the back vent position.
As for internal space, the MasterBox MB350P has a maximum graphics-card length of 410mm and a CPU-cooler height maximum of 165mm. That’s plenty of room for typical hardware.
The other side of the MasterBox MB350P provides access to the power-supply compartment, with up to 180mm of room there. The nearby hard drive cage supports two 3.5-inch drives or two 2.5-inch drives, depending on your needs. Each drive sled has a sliding mechanism that makes it easy to snap a 3.5-inch drive into place.
CoolerMaster also adds two spots for 2.5-inch drives on the back of the motherboard tray. Thanks to some thick rubber grommets, all you have to do is attach the included drive sleds and then push your drives into the motherboard tray.
Once you finish the build, you can cover many of your cables with the MasterBox MB350P’s metal shroud. The shroud goes a long way toward making this side of the case look clean, but it doesn’t do much to make this side of the case very exciting, either. If it had an array of LEDs or some kind of visible design, that would give this side much more personality.
Taking On the Test Build
When it comes to the MasterBox MB350P’s accessories kit, Cooler Master keeps things simple. A bag of screws, motherboard standoffs, and plastic ties accompanies the ARGB splitter and a manual.
The manual sports plenty of illustrations, but very little text. An image-heavy manual might be enough for basic PC cases, but the MasterBox MB350P should have a manual that includes better text instructions. The images that depict the two ways to connect the ARGB cables, for example, would really benefit from written explanations. I think virtually all computer products should include manuals with written instructions, but at this price, the case certainly should.
Removing the side panels (and putting them back in place) is an easy task, thanks to a small shelf that supports the lower end of each panel. Place the glass panel on the shelf, press it gently to the case, twist the two thumbscrews, and you’re done. It’s worth noting that I can remove the front panel with minimal effort. Front panels are notoriously difficult to remove from many cases, but Cooler Master nailed it on the MasterBox MB350P.
ARGB connectors don’t support standard RGB LED headers. Unless your motherboard is a cutting-edge model, it won’t have the appropriate headers, which means you won’t be able to use the motherboard’s lighting software to control the MasterBox MB350P’s three front-panel fans. That doesn’t mean you’re out of luck, however.
The case includes a splitter and controller for the fans, so all you’ll need to do is provide power from your power supply, and the fans will light right up. I found it easy to cycle through the built-in light settings with the button on the front panel. If you simply must have complete control of every light in your case, you’ll want to make sure you have an ARGB-compatible motherboard. (The case is designed to comply with ARGB headers on boards by major brands.) Otherwise, you’ll probably be very happy with the built-in controller.
A Clear Editors’ Choice
The MasterBox MB350P hits all the high notes. It’s gorgeous, it has plenty of space for bulky gaming hardware, and it makes building a PC a fun experience. Just as important, all three panels detach (and re-attach) easily.
I really like the ARGB fans and the way that the MasterBox MB350P’s front panel showcases them. This is a case that’s going to get plenty of attention if you take it to LAN events, or anywhere else public, for that matter. Even so, I can see how some PC builders will get a sense of upgrade fatigue when reading that most motherboards won’t have headers for the ARGB fans. Trying to keep up with must-have components (such as video cards and processors) is hard enough on one’s wallet. With new lights requiring new hardware…it’s easy to see how some gamers will say, “Eh, I’ll stick with standard RGB LEDs.”
As for the MasterBox MB350P as a whole, it’s a very solid buy. Midsize cases rarely look imposing, but with its tempered-glass panels and that front-panel stack of fans, the MasterBox MB350P brings on the beast on a reasonable budget. Factor in the cable-management options and the generous space for liquid-cooling gear, and you have a transparent PC case that’s…wait for it…clearly a bit better than the rest of the pack.
Let’s block ads! (Why?)
PCMag.com Latest Articles