Four ATX Cases For High-Capacity Water Cooling, Reviewed

Big radiators need lots of space that most enclosures simply weren't designed to offer. We're using Swiftech’s latest triple-fan cooler to test the fitment and performance in four cases supposedly set up to accommodate high-end water cooling setups.

Editor's Note: Our Southern California lab recently signed for a big box from NZXT full of cases and power supplies to give away. If you'd like a chance to win one of three Phantom 410 chassis or one of three HALE82 power supplies, read through to the end of this piece and enter our sweepstakes!

CPU water cooling has been around since the early days of Tom’s Hardware. But enclosures specifically designed to hold large liquid cooling systems have always been scarce. And while the availability of mid-sized mainstream systems like Corsair's H100 pushes case manufacturers to at least support dual-fan radiators in their enthusiast-oriented models, high-end cooling support remains a rare feature, even in the highest-end chassis. Fortunately, the few solutions that do exist are fairly good.

If you missed our walk-through of these four enclosures last week, and you want a closer look inside each case before continuing, check out In Pictures: Four ATX Cases Perfect For High-Capacity Water Cooling.

  Aerocool Strike-X ST Azza Hurrican 2000 Cooler Master Cosmos II NZXT Switch 810
Dimensions
Height25.2"21.9"27.9"23.9"
Width9.3"10.2"12.2"9.2"
Depth27.9"23.9"26.2"23.7"
Space Above
Motherboard
3.2"2.3"1.8"3.2"
Card Length16.8"13.6"**15.5"13.7"
Weight32.0 pounds24.5 pounds47.4 pounds31.4 pounds
Cooling
Front Fans
(alternatives)
1 x 200 mm
(2 x 140/120 mm)
2 x 120 mm
(None)
1 x 200 mm
(1 x 140 mm)
1 x 140 mm
(2 x 140/120 mm)
Rear Fans
(alternatives)
1 x 140 mm
(1 x 120 mm)
1 x 120 mm
(None)
1 x 140 mm
(1 x 120 mm)
1 x 140 mm
(1 x 120 mm)
Top Fans
(alternatives)
1 x 200 mm (2 x 200 mm, 3 x 140/120 mm)2 x 230 mm
(1 x 120 mm)
1 x 120 mm (1 x 200 mm, 2 x 140 mm, 3 x 120 mm)1 x 140 mm
(3 x 140/120 mm)
Left Side
(alternatives)
None (1 x 180 mm,
9 x 120 mm)
2 x 230 mm
(None)
2 x 120 mm
(4 x 120 mm)
None
Right Side
(alternatives)
None
(1 x 120/92 mm)
1 x 120 mm
(None)
NoneNone
Drive Bays
5.25" ExternalFourFourThreeFour
3.5" ExternalNone1 x AdapterNoneNone
3.5" InternalTenSixThirteenSix +One***
2.5" InternalTen*2x AdapterEleven*Seven*
Card SlotsTenSevenTenNine
Price$200 $145 $350 $163
*shared on 3.5" tray **Without cables to backplane ***On 5.25" backplane


Cooler Master tops the list in features, price, and weight, while Azza targets mid-budget enthusiasts with a mid-sized solution. Between those two pricing extremes, NZXT and Aerocool attempt to offer the best value with nine- and 10-slot designs. Today, we find out how well each case fits our parts and performs.

Before we move on to our installation notes, let’s take a quick look at the cooling system that made all of this testing possible.

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  • EzioAs
    Too bad we can't see the full build on the cosmos II. Maybe cooler master should have sent the storm trooper instead
  • wolfram23
    Should have put the rad in the bottom of the Cosmos II by removing the HDD trays. Seems like it should fit there.

    Also, Swiftech makes a sweet kit although I can't imagine the size of the triple rad. Using the Edge 220 myself, love it. Fits in my Antec 900 II.
  • Anonymous
    wolfram23Should have put the rad in the bottom of the Cosmos II by removing the HDD trays. Seems like it should fit there.Also, Swiftech makes a sweet kit although I can't imagine the size of the triple rad. Using the Edge 220 myself, love it. Fits in my Antec 900 II.

    The Cosmos II only accepts a 2 X 120 rad in the HDD compartment. Its too bad that toms wasn't able to complete the build in the cosmos II. Maybe within the end of the year, Cooler Master will introduce the Cosmos S II and fix all those enthusiast complains that i read.
  • hellfire24
    i would take Switch!it's a personal choice no offence to others they are great too.
  • theuniquegamer
    The Nzxt switch 810 is a good overall case. Too bad they can't fit the rad to cosmos ii . May be they should try the svgtech h80 triple rad air cooler .
  • theuniquegamer
    The Nzxt switch 810 is a good overall case. Too bad they can't fit the rad to cosmos ii . May be they should try the svgtech h80 triple rad air cooler .
  • Crashman
    theuniquegamerThe Nzxt switch 810 is a good overall case. Too bad they can't fit the rad to cosmos ii . May be they should try the svgtech h80 triple rad air cooler .
    Guys, I'm collecting suggestions for future uses of the left-over Cosmos II.
    1.) Yes it supports STANDARD 3-fan radiators. It just couldn't be compared to other cases if it had a different cooling system.
    2.) It can probably also be MODIFIED to fit the radiator used in the article.

    So, do you have a custom system suggestion? or are you looking for a modification article? Like I said, I'm taking suggestions. Thanks!
  • EzioAs
    For the Cosmos II, try doing a full build with a standard 360 rad in the top and a 240 rad in the bottom compartment with a 3960X cpu and 2 LCS 7970 from powercolor to show the lowest temps and highest overclock on custom watercooling build. Maybe do an extreme build guide or something like that with the cosmos II. Just a suggestion
  • acekombatkiwi1
    If you want to stick with Swiftech gear use the 240 edge kit down the bottom with a Swiftech 360 QP up top.
  • koogco
    It seems a bit silly to use a rad with bits tagged on the end, since most good cases would be designed without those bits in mind. I can see the apeal of using something that is almost like closed loop, but using one of the optical-bay resevoirs with built in pump might have put you fairly close aswell.
    I would like to see what else you can do with the Cosmos II, perhaps a 240+360rad built with just that case as others suggested.
  • slicedtoad
    i hope there are more lc articles to come and this is sort of a test run for toms because it was overwhelmingly mediocre. Watercooling is about customization, its supposed to take more time, effort and creativity than air cooling. This swiftech kit is an oversized and slightly more complicated closed loop all-in-one. It's not "high-capacity watercooling".
    I don't mind articles like this but it should be called "entry-level watercooling" or "watercooling simplified". Kinda got my hopes up and then dropped them. But if there's more to come, i can wait.
  • re-play-
    where is the Corsair 600T white?
  • theuniquegamer
    Why my post is showed two times but i posted it one time. The CM cosmos ii should have modular bays for different size radiator of LCs. Because if someone invests >350$ on a cabbi he wants it to be ultimate than other cabinets both in performance,design and also compatibily to any kind of cpu cooler(large size cpu air coolers)
  • hellfire24
    Why my post is showed two times but i posted it one time. The CM cosmos ii should have modular bays for different size radiator of LCs. Because if someone invests >350$ on a cabbi he wants it to be ultimate than other cabinets both in performance,design and also compatibily to any kind of cpu cooler(large size cpu air coolers)


    if you don't like than don't buy....no one is forcing you...
  • greenrider02
    stefpatsyou quit your testing cause your radiator didn't fit? what kind of crap is that? are you even aware how many options are out there for buyers?i m sure anyone who s modding a cosmos 2 would fit almost anything in it.i don't uderstand why you posting this crap instead of giving us a full test.pure fail.


    I don't know if you've had to have testing legitimized, but in the real world the fact that something doesn't work to qualify it for testing doesn't mean you come out with some other solution for it. It gets neglected for this test, and gets a zero for the results. Maybe another test will vindicate it, but you can't adjust midway through, that would be a testing fail.
  • pacioli
    I am impressed by the NZXT. Great functionality and certainly a unique look.
  • koogco
    pacioliI am impressed by the NZXT. Great functionality and certainly a unique look.

    It is quite nice. Not warming to white cases yet though.
    It has one oddity by the way, the entire front (and bottom I think) is dust filteret, except for one corner, with the sloped design in the front, which is not dustfiltered at all.
  • andywork78
    I just love with this case.

    I purchase it 3/11/2012 from Fry's.

    After tax it was $377.

    However...

    I saw many user install fan at side door.

    How to install a fan??

    Do i have to remove dust filter?
  • re-play-
    pacioliI am impressed by the NZXT. Great functionality and certainly a unique look.


    lol that case is ugly as hell
  • Crashman
    slicedtoadi hope there are more lc articles to come and this is sort of a test run for toms because it was overwhelmingly mediocre. Watercooling is about customization, its supposed to take more time, effort and creativity than air cooling. This swiftech kit is an oversized and slightly more complicated closed loop all-in-one. It's not "high-capacity watercooling".I don't mind articles like this but it should be called "entry-level watercooling" or "watercooling simplified". Kinda got my hopes up and then dropped them. But if there's more to come, i can wait.
    This was a case comparison, not a cooling article. Test consistency was the major objective. And you'll have to prove that there's a performance problem with Swiftech's pump if you're going to claim it has entry-level performance.
    re-play-where is the Corsair 600T white?

    Here?
    http://www.corsair.com/pc-cases/graphite-series-pc-case/special-edition-white-graphite-series-600t-mid-tower-case.html
    Too bad it doesn't qualify for the article!