The Little Case That Could
Despite our initial raised eyebrow, Cooler Master can be proud of its the HAF XB. It features a unique design that works well in a variety of environments. Use it as a bench table for extreme cooling, as a free-flowing enclosure surrounding hot, high-end hardware, or even as a semi-passive configuration with more mainstream components inside. Of course, the two recessed handles on the sides of this case make it portable, paving the way for LAN party duties.
The motherboard, processor, and graphics cards all exist on the same second-story level inside the case. This helps enable direct and unobstructed airflow across all of them. As a result, you get good thermal performance. The flexibility to stack Cooler Master's HAF XB helps explain why we've seen so many of them at trade shows, too. The outside finish might not be particularly showy, but it’s durable. Hardware fits in it well, and that's really all you can ask for if you see your system as a tool.
Small touches are what put the HAF XB over the top. Well thought-out cable management lets you run wiring through the lower level of the case and up to the top. There are the two hot-swappable drive bays. And plenty of space for cooling, plus room for dual radiators ensures the flexibility to build a very enthusiast-oriented machine. In the same vein, there's space for long PSUs, long graphics cards, and tall CPU coolers, as well as a removable motherboard tray. The Cooler Master HAF XB offers a lot of small features that make it a pleasure to work in and around. Aside from the very subjective aesthetics, this case no real drawbacks. And priced at a fairly tame $95, it's equally accessible to hardcore enthusiasts and mainstream gamers.
Cooler Master's HAF XB is a unique, flexible, and durable chassis able to satisfy a number of functions well. Its price is moderate, and we can't really find anything wrong with it. It simply works well in the roles it was designed to satisfy. The form factor isn't going to be for everyone, and it certainly won't fit on or under the desks of several Tom's Hardware editors. But that's not what it was designed for. In its element, the HAF XB steps up to earn Tom's Hardware's Smart Buy award for serving up notable value, a functional design, and Cooler Master's sprinkle of innovation as it tries something new.