2003 Winter Case Review Part 2: The ATX Avalanche

Cooler Master Wave Master: TAC-T01-EK, Continued

Once you get past the exquisite high-gloss, automotive quality paint finish that is on both side panels and the top, you can focus on some of the other case features. During our testing we found the finish on the TAC-T01-EK to be quite durable; however, it is susceptible to fingerprints and skin oil from contact with the case finish. There were no details as to the care and maintenance of the finish included with the case, but you will want to avoid using paper towel types for cleaning, as this will cause scratches and marring of the finish. We recommend a soft type of chamois style cloth for removing fingerprints, oil and dust from the case. The TAC-T01-EK includes top-mounted ports for USB 1394/Firewire and audio that are located behind a pop-up style door on the top of the TAC-T01-EK. This pop-up style door is spring loaded and offers excellent action for this type of mechanism. We also give Cooler Master kudos for including a 1394/Firewire cable that allowed the 1394/Firewire port on the top of the TAC-T01-EK to be connected directly to our test motherboard, rather than requiring a cable to be routed outside the case.

The hatch style opening for these top-mounted ports can be completely removed and replaced with the included mesh grill, which allows the purchaser to add an additional 80mm fan at the top of the TAC-T01-EK. While we will not debate the usefulness of these top-mounted, included ports, depending on how these ports are utilized you may or may not find the placement location on the top to be optimal. In our testing scenarios this did not bother us, but it did pose a puzzling dilemma in some instances, as we are so accustomed to accessing these ports on the front or side of a case. We plugged in a variety of 1394/Firewire USB devices and although the TAC-T01-EK looked somewhat cluttered with these devices and/or cables hanging out of the top of the TAC-T01-EK, we had no problems connecting them or getting them to fit.

Cooler Master has gone the extra mile by including some soft blue LED lighting that emits a very cool looking blue glow behind the nearly three dimensional, sculpted bezel of the TAC-T01-EK. While it is possible to enhance this glow using additional lighting, it really was not necessary with our test case. The only 'down side' of the TAC-T01-EK is that although Cooler Master included a variety of features targeted at the case modding community, this beautiful sample case was not shipped with a pre-cut side panel window.

Overall, Cooler Master has made an exceptional amount of enhancements to the original Wave Master design that we previously reviewed under the ATCS-TEK label. We were particularly impressed with the addition of the intake fans in the front of the chassis, as well as the smooth, high-gloss black finish, which is stunning to see. The highly machined curvature of the front bezel provides an appearance that is unlike any other case on the market today. As many of our readers know, we are not the biggest fans of front doors on cases. Still, with the availability of the Cooler Master stick-on alloy bezels that match the front bezel of the case, these stick-ons offer a unique appearance that is not present in other cases.

The Wave Master TAC-T01-EK is a high quality product. Cooler Master's aggressive lowering of the retail price of this case now makes it more affordable than previously. While we would have preferred the second exposed 3.5"" drive for a media card reader in addition to the floppy drive, there is not much else to dislike about the TAC-T01-EK Wave Master. It is available in a silver, all aluminum alloy version in addition to the new black model reviewed here. Cooler Master has the enthusiast covered with two of the most popular styling for cases. Is the Wave Master "perfect?" That depends on the way in which you will use the case. Still, the design of this beauty remains unchallenged from the majority of case manufacturers who do not design and build cases targeted toward the high-end enthusiast market.