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Pros: This case weighs almost nothing, but it's very strong and rigid. I don't know whether it's made from a cold-rolled, coated steel, or something else, but I've never seen a non-aluminum case that has this weight-to-strength ratio.
The case is great-looking; it has a matte black finish with attractive honeycomb-style vents that are forged into the actual case (they are not tacked-on plastic vents).
The front bezel is plastic, but it still looks sharp and is easy to remove.
Water-cooling capabilities; a radiator can be mounted on this case.
Removable screen filters in three separate locations, making it easy to remove accumulated dust from the case.
The case features white LED lights (for power and hard disk activity), which is pretty unique; I've never seen white LEDs in a case before.
The assembly is completely tool-less, which is great. The only minor exception is that a screw-driver is required to mount the motherboard to the case.
Speaking of screwdrivers, this is another simple feature that really sets CoolerMaster apart: the case hardware bag includes a Phillips-to-hex adapter, so an adjustable wrench or socket set is unnecessary when installing the brass offsets on which the motherboard is mounted. Good thing, too, because all I had was a screwdriver at the time of assembly! CoolerMaster saved me a trip home from the office.
Finally, CoolerMaster had the good sense to include *three* solid-state drive (SSD) bays in this case. So, if you are considering a SSD and were planning to buy a 3.5" to 2.5" enclosure/adapter for your SSD, it's not necessary with this case (unless you plan to buy more than three SSDs).
Very happy with this purchase; I looked long and hard for a case under $100 that meets all my needs and this is the sole contender.
Other Thoughts: I went into panic mode when I couldn't find any hardware with the case. Only after removing the front bezel did I realize that the hardware was indeed present! The bag was tucked up in the front of the case and was easy to miss upon initial inspection.
So, if you can't find the hardware that should be included with the case, dig-around *inside the case* (not in the box) and look for two small bags of hardware. The screws are all black, which is a nice touch, because they match the black finish on the case.
The best feature of this power supply is that each cord can be detached from the power supply when not needed. This keeps your case free and clear of unnecessary clutter, which improves airflow and in turn cooling.
So far, this power supply has been nearly silent, too; I can't hear a peep out of it.
SeaSonic even includes a black drawstring bag in which to keep the unused connectors, which bears the SeaSonic logo. The bag is nothing fancy, but this is a thoughtful gesture nonetheless, as it keeps the unused connectors organized and separate from other items in your computer-junk-drawer.
The handsome, matte-black finish is the icing on the cake. A very nice unit, indeed!
Cons: None so far.READ FULL REVIEW
Pros: - Fast-Boot and Ultra-Fast-Boot (the latter of which requires a compatible video card, Windows 8, and the OS to be installed on a GPT [as opposed to MBR] partition).
- X-Boost (one-click, intelligent over-clocking for applicable components); can be toggled at boot.
- EUFI boot utility contains extremely helpful, well-written (with proper English grammar) tool-tip information about each option that does not leave the user guessing as to what effect changing a setting will have.
- Ability to roll-back BIOS settings automatically if the system fails to boot (e.g., due to an over-clocking change); number of failures to trigger roll-back is configurable.
- First motherboard to provide M.2 interface.
- I hate bundled utilities, typically, but the onboard networking chipset (Atheros Killer e2200) comes with some useful software that provides a slick interface for what is essentially QoS (quality of service) at the application level, in filter-driver space. The interface uses slider-bars that allow the user to control which applications have bandwidth priority. This ensures that an rsync job that pulls-down the contents of your cloud-based virtual machine doesn't kick-off mid-game and destroy your connection. Also, the utility is very handy for squelching unwanted programs that communicate without permission (individual executables can be denied network access altogether). There is one major caveat, here, however, which is that the Killer e22xx drivers crash (BSOD) Windows in some configurations. (See cons section of review for details and workaround.)
Cons: - My portable USB 3.0 hard disk, which is USB-powered (no external A/C adapter) is recognized in only two of the four USB 3.0 ports that are available on the back of the motherboard (the bottom two). A similar USB 2.0 portable hard disk works as expected in all four ports. This leads me to conclude that the top two ports likely do not provide sufficient power for USB-powered 3.0 devices. I tried everything to get the top two ports to work with my USB 3.0 drive; I am convinced that it is a hardware problem/limitation.
- The networking chipset (Killer e2200) driver that is available from the Asrock website causes frequent BSOD for me (in Windows 8 x64). The version of the driver that crashes is 18.104.22.1689. A quick Web search revealed that this has been an ongoing issue, and other users recommended acquiring a newer driver from Qualcomm, directly. Unfortunately, I downloaded the newest driver from qca.qualcomm.com and BSODs persisted (that version is 22.214.171.1241). I have confirmed that the filter driver is indeed the source of the crashing using Whocrashed; the culprit is bwcw8x64.sys. One more unfortunate bit: the network interface driver is bundled with the whole Killer suite, so it's not possible to install only the interface driver and skip the problematic QoS filter driver. I had to use a driver extraction tool after installing the suite to obtain just the interface driver, which I then had to install manually via Device Manager after removing the suite. It would very much behove Asrock pressure Qualcomm to fix this serious hang-up with the e22xx chipset. A less capable user would have RMA'd this board over the BSODs.
- Was getting BSODs with USB 3.0 host controller; tried to download version 0.118 from etron.com (under USB3.0 Host Controllers -> Driver Download), but problem persists. WORKAROUND: Uninstall Etron USB 3.0 drivers (I had to disable USB 3.0 controller on the motherboard to uninstall; otherwise, the uninstall process kept causing a BSOD). The built-in Microsoft drivers (in Windows 8.1; not sure if suitable drivers are included in earlier Windows versions) seem to be stable.
- Only 5 SATA ports (can always be expanded with a PCIe controller card, though).
- Auxiliary power connector (required for more than once PCIe video card) is positioned awkwardly; it faces "down", towards the bottom of the case in a standard layout, which prevents it from being accessible in my particular case; good thing that I don't need more than one video card. The connector does not face "outward" like most connectors of its type.
Other Thoughts: - I bought this board primarily because I wanted to install Windows 8 with EUFI support and a GPT hard disk (solid-state). Windows 8 on a GPT disk, coupled with a capable video card, is required to leverage the Asrock's "Ultra Fast Boot" feature. It's a bit of a pain to get working (especially if you need to migrate existing Windows data), but it's well worth the effort. I can save others a lot of time and hassle regarding the process of installing Windows 8 on a GPT (as opposed to MBR) partition with this motherboard. Beware that EUFI installation mode for Windows 7 and 8 requires a properly-prepared installation DVD. If you use a third-party installation DVD, e.g., corporate WinPE image or something downloaded from the Internet, there's a good chance that whomever created the DVD image neglected to include the boot files required to install Windows 8 in EUFI mode. The bottom line is that when you press F11 to choose a boot device during POST, unless the DVD drive entry begins with "EUFI", you will not be able to install Windows to a GPT hard disk using that installation media. Using Genuine Microsoft media is the best way to ensure that the Windows installer boots into the correct mode.
- When "Ultra Fast Boot" is enabled, certain boot-related options change in (or disappear altogether from) in the EUFI interface. To be able to boot so quickly, the system must skip certain checks/tests, so certain boot options change or are disabled entirely with Ultra Fast Boot (and possibly Fast Boot) enabled. So, disable this feature temporarily if you notice that a certain boot-related option disappeared, seemingly all of a sudden. (I had to reboot after toggling Ultra Fast Boot to see the full list of boot options again.)