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Thursday, 28 April 2016

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Corsair Carbide SPEC Alpha Mid-Tower Cabinet Review


This year at CES 2016 Corsair made quite a splash with a plethora of new products that were not only different than what Corsair usually does in terms of styling but were a stunner at performance as-well. Lately we did had the pleasure of reviewing some of those offerings like the STRAFE RGB Cherry MX Silent Mechanical Keyboard, the Scimitar Gaming Mouse and the H5 SF Low Profile CPU Liquid Cooler, all of them won our hearts one way or the other.
Today is no different and we have with us the much talked about and highly anticipated Corsair Carbide SPEC Alpha mid-tower cabinet for review!

Priced aggressively at $80 or Rs 6500 (approx) in India the SPEC Alpha is one of its kind offering not only from Corsair but also from any other brand so far especially in this price range. The edgy looking chassis comes in four different color combinations namely as red-white, red-black, yellow-black and even the grey-black for those who like to stick with one color only.

Packing and Accessories


The Corsair Carbide SPEC Alpha comes in the traditional cardboard box packing of Corsair. I was expecting something colorful and new from them since the case itself is quite a path breaker itself.
Inside you'll find the usual two thick styrofoam blocks and a plastic cover to add further protection. Corsair is always so simple and perfect with their packing so no complains over here.

The Alpha comes with a generous bundle of accessories including a multilingual user manual and a bag full of zip-ties, motherboard screws, a set of four long long fan screws, four sets of four short fan screws and a motherboard stand-off.

Closer Look

From the first look of the SPEC Alpha itself you can tell that its nothing like any of the previous Corsair cases let alone the Carbide series.  Infact the looks are clearly a reminder of the Corsair Bulldog which would be coming out later this year.

The case measures in at 518 x 220 x 474 mm with 52L of volume which is quite good for a mid-tower chassis. Tipping out weighing scale at 5.7Kgs its a bit on the heavier side considering its size.

While one side is transparent with a panoramic window the other side is opaque and bulging in the same fashion as its transparent counterpart. The panels are really high quality sheet metal & feel thick with a seamless paint job.

Its a tall case and has a very high ground clearance courtesy to its  tough plastic legs with rubber grommets at the bottom. This ensures more air flow in the case if a bottom fan is installed near the PSU!

Front fascia is nothing less than a polygon with a contoured finishing. The red strips gel well with the white base and the entire black mesh is actually a grill for the front fans to intake cool air through in-lined non-removable dust filters . One thing that some of you might've already noticed is that there is no optical drive opening in the front! Its a good move and we'll discuss it later on in the review.

Front I/O panel is vertical over here constituting of a power button, two USB 3.0 ports, a three phase fan controller for controlling upto four fans, headphone and microphone jacks along with a HDD activity LED and reset button.

On top the same angular design continues as that on the front and looks great! Where most of the cabinet manufacturers leave the top blank and bland Corsair made sure to give it proper attention aswell.

The bottom has a flimsy removable dust filter. probably the only thing that's cheap in quality about this case!

The back comes with  a Corsair SP120 120mm fan pre-installed in exhaust. That's the maximum it can accommodate and a 140mm fan is not supported.

The bottom half has seven expansion slots and a PSU housing that can accommodate even the longest of PSUs easily. Two rubber cut outs are present in case you are into custom liquid cooling, a welcome move indeed since the case tilts a bit more towards liquid cooling solutions.

Open up the case and you can see that its pretty spacious and clean from inside. Plenty of cuts and crevices for wire management assistance are present but they are not lined by rubber grommets.
Apart from the front HDD/SSD cage that can house three 3.5' drives and two 2.5' drives there is also provision for two HDD/SSD mounts at the back just in case you want to completely remove the front cage you for more flexibility.

Interestingly Corsair got rid of the caddie system and now its a completely tool less drive mounting mechanism where you just have to slide in the drive into the brackets that come with in-build support screws. Another step towards simplification.

Two red LED fans come pre-installed in the front of the case and are numbered as Corsair A1225M12S rated at 1000 RPM +/- 20% and 54.0 CFM with 20dBA 0.30A.

Hardware Installation

To get the Corsair SPEC Alpha up and running we stuffed it with the following hardware --

CPU: Intel Core i7 5930K 3.5Ghz hexacore processor OC at 4.1Ghz
Motherboard: Gigabyte G1 Gaming X99-Gaming 5P
RAM: Kingston HyperX Predator16GB 3000Mhz (4x4) DDR4 Quad-channel Memory
Cooler: Corsair H100i GTX 240mm Liquid Cooler
Graphics Card: MSI Radeon R9 380 Gaming 4G 4GB DDR5
Storage: Corsair Neutron GTX 480GB SSD
Power Supply: Corsair AX860i 860W 80+ Platinum

To be honest I don't like to fit such heavy and beefy components in mid-towers since its a tiresome job to put everything in the right place but not in case of the Alpha! The build actually came out so well that even Grand Master Po was impressed *wink*

As per Corsair the front could accommodate only two 120mm fans or a 240mm radiator but infact you can put three 120mm or two 140mm fans in front also my Corsair H110 280mm cooler slid in perfectly. Though I didn't have one but I can speculate that a 360mm radiator should also fit in just fine! Maybe Corsair got a bit too humble while talking about their product...
Only complaint is that you can't mount a radiator on top though a pair of 120mm fans can surely be fitted.

The benefit of neglecting a 5.25" drive bay has been immense for the Corsair Carbide SPEC Alpha, not only does it allow the fitting of the beefiest of liquid coolers in the front with the HDD/SSD drive cage still intact but also positions the fans as such that you get a direct air flow towards your graphics card and processor aiding in cooling by manifold especially if you are using a CPU air cooler!

Wire management was very easy courtesy to the numerous crevices and around an inch of wire clearance at the back but one ghost from the past is still haunting Corsair over here, there is no space for routing the (4+4) CPU Power cord! I had to route the wire from one of the front holes, fortunately it stays hidden due to the dark interiors.

The side panoramic window is of high density plexiglass and doesn't hinder the LED lights allowing them to pass through clearly without any glare that tends to happen with some panels.

In a nut shell the SPEC Alpha is one of the very few or maybe the only mid-tower case today that can hold a 280mm radiator-probably a 360mm radiator, a 120mm radiator and three HDD along with four SSD all at the same time!

My Verdict

The market of the Mid-Towers had lately come to a stand still especially when you  considered designs that appealed to gamers, system builders or studio owners but that's a thing of the past! The Corsair Carbide SPEC Alpha is no less than a knight in shining armor which is not only build to last but to impress.
The out of the box futuristic design and robust build quality is near perfection. Accommodation capacity is ideal and can easily hold almost any hardware available in the present day market. Plenty of color options is a wise move from Corsair since this chassis can now appeal to consumers not only in terms of design but also in color combinations. A few rough edges like the absence of a top radiator mount and non magnetic dust filters do sour the deal but these can easily be dealt with!
I highly recommend the Corsair Carbide SPEC Alpha to anyone and everyone be it a gamer, system builder or an enthusiast out there looking for a solid case that not only looks good but can also house even the beefiest of hardware. Just a piece of advice no matter what you do just keep it on top of your desk and not under it, its a thing to show off and not to hide!
I give it a 8.5/10

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16 comments:

  1. Can you confirm that the corsair h110i 280mm fits in this case?? Thanks a lot!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello,
      Yes the H110i would fit in smoothly inside the SPEC Alpha. Just the fans would be on the outer side like I've configured mine for the H100i GTX due to the obstruction that the HDD cage would be inside.

      Delete
    2. hi sir
      did you fit the h110 280mm radiator in spec alpha in front ?

      Delete
    3. Hello,
      Yes you can fit the H110 in the front of the case. The fans would be on the outer side that is between the case frame and he front fascia.

      Delete
  2. i am buying this case
    i have i7 6800k and Asus ROG STRIX X99
    are you sure it can fit the h110 280mm radiator in front or should if go with the h100i v2 240mm cooler ?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well the H110 will fit in but the H100i V2 is a better deal simply due to its better pump, tubing and customization options. The performance is also better.

      Delete
  3. if yes can you show me your case pictures ? do you have to keep the front panel open or whats the problem with hdd cage or something like that ? thank you

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The picture is in the review itself with the H100i GTX I don't have a picture of it with the H110 as I didn't click it at that time.
      Its a simple concept, the radiator goes in the bracket in the front and you have to mount both the fans in the front side of the radiator as I have, between the case frame & the front fascia, the HDD cage needs to be removed if you are going for a push pull since the bottom fan will get obstructed by the HDD cage making it impossible to install a second fan.
      You can see the last picture for reference where two 120mm radiators have been installed after removal of the HDD cage.

      Delete
  4. TarmaS G: were you able to fit the H110?
    Vishvesh Mishra: you are the only one on internet who claims that H110 can fit in spec alpha. Can you please post some photos? I am planning to buy H115i or the H110i do you think it will fit?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello,
      I managed to fit in my Corsair H110 in this case but unfortunately didn't take any photos of the same as it wasn't supposed to be a part of the main build.
      Its clear from the pictures above that there is ample space for a 280mm radiator in the front.
      Yes it should fit in aswell so go ahead.

      Delete
  5. Can you fit the h110 radiator in the top of the case

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello,
      Unfortunately no you can't. Infact you can't fit any radiator on top of this case.
      The front can accommodate the H110 easily.

      Delete
  6. Hello
    I have a k380 case, recently upgraded my mobo to Asus z270f strix, and will upgrade to a 1070 from a 970, processor being i5 6600k(previous one was i5 4460) which cpu cooler to go for and what's the difference between this case and the spec 04, also suggest a better case if u can

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello,
      As for the CPU cooler I'd say you go for the CM Hyper 212X as its more than sufficient for that CPU or you can opt for a 120mm AIO like the CM MasterLiquid Pro 120 if you can afford a bit extra.
      The K380 and SPEC-04 are nearly identical with the major difference lying in the support for a 5.25" drive bay so you cannot use an optical drive in the SPEC-04 while its the opposite with the K380. Otherwise I personally prefer the SPEC-04 since it has a better build quality, infact the best I've come across in cases of that price range with ample support for big coolers and long graphics cards. So if you want to use an optical drive then the K380 is the one to go for otherwise the SPEC-04 is what I recommend.

      Delete