Cooler Master Mastercase H500P review

As cool as it gets?

30 November 2017

Disclaimer: I'm not normally a hardware reviewer for PC components. I recently picked up one of these cases for a PC build of my own, but I am not regularly building PCs. You should take that into account when reading.

Quarter view of the Cooler Master Mastercase H500P with blue LEDs

The TL;DR, for anyone not inclined to, or not interested in, reading the full blurb. This is a very nice looking case. It's not as simple as it could be to install everything, but there's plenty of space, and everything fundamentally works fine. For the price tag, it would be nice to have a better build quality, more glass and less acrylic, and fans that were actually round.

The packaging

Look, this is a big case. It's in the "mid-size ATX" category on most sites, but this is a big case. It's wider than a lot of other cases, to make the high airflow happen, and to allow for bigger fans. It's got a few niceties in the packaging to make it manageable though.

The entire thing, including the polystyrene packing, is enclosed within a canvas bag, with handles, inside the main cardboard packaging. This is definitely weird, like if you were to open a banana and find your actual edible banana flesh encased within a hoodie or something.

It's also a really good idea: how many times have you opened a large cardboard package at the top, only to find there's no practical way of lifting the contents out, leading to the need to cut through the side of the box? Here, you just grab the canvas bag handles, and lift.

The best part? You get a free canvas bag! Think of the possibilities! You could use it for groceries, or to throw odd cables in, or as a fun play area for your cat! Or you could be boring and use it to carry the assembled PC around after you've built it.

The case comes with a bunch of components, including motherboard risers and other random screws and blib blobs (that's a technical term). They're all encased within this oddly alluring Cooler Master branded box that is a bit like what jewellery comes in, if you're the kind of guy who buys jewellery made of stainless steel.

Subjective royalty

It's a weird one, and highly subjective. I'm the type who buys components to build a PC, with the main goal being to enjoy using the PC once it's assembled. I didn't really value the "royalty" feeling that Cooler Master are going for here with the canvas bags and the motherboard "jewellery" inside the box and the sense that you're "better than the average bear" for buying this case and not a lesser one.

That said, there are a lot of PC builders and modders who really enjoy the act of building, as some kind of nerd yoga, the meditative equivalent of doing a really expensive jigsaw puzzle or Lego set.

Those falling into that category will not be disappointed here, for the most part. The whole "outlook" of Cooler Master here, if there can be such a thing derived from a PC case and its packaging, is that you exist, and you are special, and by gifting Cooler Master with your money, you are now anointed King of PC Building, subordinate only to Emperor Cooler Master himself.

Materials

So a lot has been made of the "superior" nature of this case, and I'm going to shoot a lot of it down, based on materials and construction. Sorry about that. Grab the popcorn.

Cooler Master Mastercase H500P components without the frame

There is exactly one glass panel in the entire case. That's the side panel that exposes your goofy PC innards so passers-by can gawk at your super mega quad-GPU layout or whatever turns you on.

It's tempered, and slightly smoked, and on the former, that's highly useful, and on the latter, I can't think why. For me, I'd rather just have a regular glass panel. If you're the type who doesn't want your PC's insides to be lit up like a Christmas tree that just got hit with a bunch of Agent Orange while standing next to a lit match (although good luck with buying any non-RGB gaming components these days) then you stand to lose out here.

Now you're thinking: ah yes, but what about the top and side panels? They're see-through, so they must be glass too right? No. Unfortunately, Cooler Master have gone with very low quality acrylic here. If you have cats, and they happen to lick one of these panels, your case is ruined. They're so easily scratched that you could almost breath on them wrong and there'd be hell to pay.

It boggles my mind that a veteran company in the PC components market can still put out an expensive case like this and think cheap acrylic is okay. It even affects the rigidity of the top and side panels. To the point which makes me wonder if they originally planned to include the glass panels here and decided to slash costs at the last minute.

The top and side panels are extremely flimsy as a result, so make sure you either plan to have them permanently installed or permanently removed (if you need the extra airflow, but more on flow later) because constantly moving them around is probably going to end badly.

The case is made from steel, rather than the oft-overhyped aluminium, but really, the precise ferrous composition of a case is less important than the thickness of the materials. I was extremely disappointed by how flimsy a lot of the internal steel is here.

I'll just preface this part by saying that the case itself, structurally, is fine. It's an appropriate weight, and does not at all feel like it might buckle or bend at the wrong moment.

However, then we move on to the inner components. There is a shroud for the power supply, which is bottom-mounted in this configuration. There is another adjacent shroud for the drive bays, which are also on the bottom. These are made from metal so thin you wonder if it hasn't previously had a career in some kind of metallic fashion modelling industry.

They're screwed into place, but even after removing the screws, they have latches, so a bit of jiggling is  required to pull them free, and you know what your mother said about jiggling? Yes, jiggling, with flimsily thin metal components, will lead to bending, and bending leads to uncontrollable tears that you've just spent this much on a "quality" case and you've accidentally ruined it before it rendered its first pixel in Call of Duty 27: Ugly Moon Nazis Attack Mars.

There is a convenient and cleverly thought out mounting system on the top of the case for extra fans, radiators, or whatever else you could screw in there. It's a nice idea, because there aren't predefined holes for the screws: you can slide things along until they reach the best place for you, and then fix them in place.

When I say "cleverly thought out", I don't mean "cleverly executed". The metal rails on the top are such thin metal that if you even slightly overtighten the screws, you will bend the top of the case and effectively ruin your day. Seriously though Cooler Master, you know people are going to be using screws here. Why didn't you just use a higher thickness, even for this one part of the case?

"Mind went blank" design features

Remember how I mentioned there's a smoked tempered glass side panel? This is the main thing you're going to remove from the case before you begin, fingers trembling, your new and exciting PC build. And what a simple and pleasurable build it will be, knowing you've spent all that money on such a high qu... oh, how does this even open?

Someone has made a conscious decision at Cooler Master to use a fucking massive flat-headed screw in order to open the glass panel. To the point where, as a guy whose father was an auto mechanic, and therefore I inherited every type of screwdriver you could ever own, I didn't have a large enough flat headed driver for this screw.

So get a knife ready. Like, a regular kitchen knife. The kind that you last used to eat last night's burnt bangers and mash (or insert other stereotypical food product). You will now use this knife by inserting it parallel to what I've dubbed the "idiot screw", and turning it.

Why the hell isn't this a thumb screw? There's thumb screws on the rear of the case for removing the panel on the other side. This is just really pointless and annoying. This is, after all, probably the panel you're going to be removing most often. It makes sense to have the most sensible locking mechanism, right? RIGHT??? Massive black mark here.

The other "mind went blank" features include not marking which screws do what on the rear of the caseYou want to remove the power supply shroud to... you know, install a power supply. As you do. There's three screws on the rear of the case. You need to unscrew all of these. They're all black. Every other damn screw on the rear is also black. Good luck. If you were faced with this situation while defusing a bomb, it's at this moment you would promptly soil yourself and be prepared for the afterlife. With this case, it's just another dumb design decision.

In my opinion, at the least, these screws could have been a different colour. They're not manufactured black. They all start silver, bare metal, and then get sprayed or "treated" black. You could easily just mark the heads in some way so they're identifiable.

Alternatively, and here's an idea you'd have thought might have come up at Cooler Master: make it quick release. You could have used thumb screws here, or just had a simple latching mechanism that doesn't require screws.

Quality design features

I've been bitching for some time about this case now, and I must point out that the above features, even though they're highly annoying, are exactly the kind of thing you'd expect to find on pretty much any budget PC case, so they're not "Cooler Master only" failings, but you'd expect more from spending this much on a case.

I did like the overall layout in use here. You have plenty of space to work inside the case, with or without a board fitted. There's few situations in which you're thinking "I wish I had the hands of Donald Trump so that I could reach in there and finish this thing".

More and more motherboards now support hot-swappable SATA, so it's a shame that the 3.5" drive bays aren't fully hot swappable here. They are easily removable, but you're still left to fiddle with the cables instead of plugging the cables into dedicated chassis mounts and letting the drives themselves come out, attached to the bays.

Close-up view of the bottom of the Cooler Master Mastercase H500P showing the 3.5" drive bays

If you're installing 2.5" drives, you're in for a whale of a time. Not.

The case comes with two 2.5" drive mounts, but the positions of these are questionable at best. Since they're designed so that the rear of the drive is pointing towards the "back side" of the case, unless you have a very tiny motherboard, you have no way of accessing the rear connectors.

In my case, I had no choice but to install the drive loose inside the case because it was the only way the connectors would actually attach.

A much better idea would have been to include an adapter so that the 3.5" bay can hold 2.5" drives where they're needed.

But wait, you said you'd be positive from now on!

Cable management is designed to be a pleasure here, and there is a removable panel on the "back side" designed to cover your cabling. The rubber flaps on the case wall are great, allowing you to easily pass cables from the power supply, through the back of the case, where they won't be seen or get in the way, and back out to the motherboard in a variety of convenient places.

The three pre-installed fans are well designed, with the wiring ready for use, which I'll come onto in the airflow section below.

Cable "management"

I get it. I really do. You want to take your beautiful new Mastercase H500P to the next big gaming event and have people literally asking to extrude their love juices on its pretty curves. That means it has to look the part, so you want as few cables visible as possible.

Thankfully, for the most part, that's easy. Whether or not you have a modular power supply, you have plenty of space to hide those ugly cables thanks to the ill-designed but perfectly functional power supply shroud, and, for those who haven't yet joined the exalted modular brigade, a further shroud for the drive bays, which can hide those fifty three unused SATA connectors on your power supply.

There are plenty of holes to route cables around the rear and have them pop back out at the front in a minimalist "peekaboo" style.

Then you realise: at some point, ideally, you'd like to reattach the side of the case again. That's going to be... problematic.

See, this case comes with a lot of pre-installed wiring. Add to that your main board power, all the connectors for SATA and other peripherals, and all the CPU power and fan connectors you will need, and pretty soon you realise that there's a space problem.

While Cooler Master have obviously catered for the way most modern gamers don't want their cables hanging out, they don't seem to have considered just how many there are in an average gaming computer.

In my case, there was 0 chance that the rear metal "cable hiding" panel was ever going to go back in place. Bearing in mind I knew this case's design heavily favoured cable management, I played it like I was Kasparov, facing off against Deep Blue, pondering every decision twenty cables ahead, like I knew my world champion cable-routing status was on the line here.

But in the end, the computer always wins. Like Deep Blue, the H500P defeated me in style. There's no way that rear bracket is going to fit back on with all your cables attached. In my case, the side of the case barely fitted back on and that was only after some painful cable-crushing to make it happen.

There's ways around this. You can cable things at the front instead, which makes the end result a lot uglier, but much easier to work with. You could use fewer cables, taking into careful consideration that you can only use M.2 drives (no cabling needed), a minimal amount of fans, and no other "nice-to-haves". But honestly, who does that? Or, you know, Cooler Master could have actually used some brainpower here.

I did actually get all my cables to fit, except the CPU power cable, which had to go on the front to allay the fear that, under the extreme pressure exerted by forcing the side of the case to reattached, my cabling would eventually form diamonds. Which, actually, might be a good thing: I'd be able to sell those diamonds to afford a better case!

Air flow

The Cooler Master brand would be a real dud if it wasn't... well... a master of keeping things cool. Air flow is one of the primary design factors in this case. If you attach the front and top panels, there's huge ventilation areas on the sides of the nasty acrylic panels to ensure the air can move around.

The case is also fitted with two spectacularly large RGB fans at the front, and another reasonable fan at the rear. The fans are Cooler Master branded, naturally.

If you're not a fan (ahaha... sigh) of this little airflow, you can install further fans at the top of the case, and pretty much the entire length of the case is yours to go as crazy as you like. Cooling is not going to be any kind of problem here.

Cleverly, the underside of the case also includes a cooling vent, with removable dust filter. Given that, in order to keep the inside nice and pretty, you probably want to install the power supply fan pointing downwards (otherwise it would be obscured by the power supply shroud and do nothing), this comes in extremely favourably.

The filters on the top and side panels are not removable, but this doesn't really matter, because the panels themselves are removable, and contain no wiring, so you're safe whether you're brushing or blowing the dust from the filters, or even fully washing them.

TooFarGB

I'm an older guy who's been into PC gaming way too long. I'm one of the breed who, rather than seeing a 3.5" floppy and thinking wow, a massive save icon, actually used 3.5" floppies daily, and the 5.25" ones before that.

I get it, younger gamers want all the lights and bells and whistles and flashing jibbedy-jabbers (technical term) in their cases. I have to wonder where the limit is here. Yes, Jimmy, your computer looks like someone installed a fusion reactor somewhere near Blackpool, but how does that help your FPS in Doom (2016) exactly?

The two massive fans on the front of the H500P are RGB-enabled. Crucially though, they're not RGBW enabled. This means they don't have a dedicated white channel. They come with a 4-pin RGB connector that has a pin for each colour channel and a 12V pin for power. The reason I mention this is that a lot of modern boards have a 5-pin header for 12V + RGBW, and you are going to be connecting a 4-pin cable to that header.

You need to be very careful that you are connecting it the right way around, and that you are not connecting the W pin to the fans on this case. Since this whole RGB and RGBW thing is still pretty new, the cables aren't "decided" firmly enough to have stops and "foolproof" connectors like many of the other components, so you really are on your own with this one, and mistakes are possible.

Or, you know, Cooler Master could have not cheaped out and instead used RGBW LEDs on their fans.

Note that the power for the fan itself is not associated with the RGB power. They need separate supplies. This adds an interesting problem to the cable management situation above. Although they come pre-cabled and the wiring is done for you, there are still a lot of cables here. Two for each fan: one for the fan speed and one for the RGB... ness... of it.

Thankfully there's a joining cable here so, assuming you want all the fans to be the same colour and brightness at the same time, you can just have a single 4-pin connector going to your board and be done with it. Alternatively, the cable is detachable, so you could have the fans going to separate headers and have them different colours if you wanted.

Ever the practical guy, I immediately set my fan colour to represent the CPU temperature, so it's easy to see that I'm melting my expensive components when the fan reaches red (or physically melts), but your mileage may vary and you might want to do other things. I will not judge you. Much.

An important note on fan quality here: although the fans don't have to rotate very quickly to get a decent amount of cooling through the case, largely due to the ridiculous size on offer, this actually has a noticeable negative effect when you're dealing with shoddy manufacturing: the fans are not circular enough.

There's enough of a manufacturing error here that, at slow RPMs, you can clearly see the fans are "wobbling". It is not enough to cause vibration in the case, but it's very annoying to watch. The solutions then: don't allow the fans to turn, if you enjoy watching a microcosm of August 1945 happening in your expensive computer, or just set them at such a high RPM that the human eye can't detect the wobbling, if you want to test just how good Cooler Master's fan bearing are for the long haul.

You can do better than that, Cooler Master. This is not a bargain bin PC case we're talking about here. It's a premium one. Maybe you noticed that when you decided on the price?

Final thoughts

So, after many long hours of scratching my head at some peculiar design decisions and inferior quality choices by Cooler Master, I was left with a really odd conclusion in my head: why did this case review so well on the Internet? Barely a moment goes by without some other tech nerd saying how this is the greatest case of all time, beaten only by the one Jesus Christ uses himself (and that guy knows how to mod PCs!) and how the world would have ended without such an offering from Cooler Master.

Interior of Cooler Master Mastercase H500P showing EVGA GeForce 1080 Ti GPU and water cooled CPU

I think this comes down to a few things. When all is said and done, once your case is assembled, you're rarely, if ever, going to be disassembling it except maybe opening the side panel and poking around installing a new graphics card.

Once assembled, the H500P is a mighty fine case. Not huge, although larger than I would have liked, looks good (if your PC-building theme was "post-nuclear-war light show"), and there's no ugly cables to look at.

The more astute will notice that I mentioned the CPU power connector specifically before, and, in my photo above, there is no such cable connected to the motherboard! That's because clearly it would have ruined the visuals so I took it out, because it quickly became clear that routing it around the back was never going to work.

Interior of Cooler Master Mastercase H500P showing

It's fine. It's an okay case. But, in my opinion, it's not the jizz-inducing mother of all cases that the rest of the Internet would have you believe. It will certainly be hard to cause overheating problems with this case. It is also very expensive for what it is.

I mean, consider what you're actually getting here. A steel case made from questionably thin metal. Flimsy plastic panels. Two RGB (not RGBW) fans and a standard fan. A single tempered glass panel. Some plastic drive bays. Which part above, if any, justifies this price tag?

The PC Master Race meme

At this price, I was literally expecting, as I opened the box, the PC Master Race dude was going to knock on my door and personally thank me for contributing to his breed's excellence.

Instead, I got some flimsy metal and acrylic panels that I'm scared to touch in case they megascratch themselves.

I've been pretty harsh on the case, but it's fine. I keep coming back to this point. It works. It will not overheat. It has some nice features. Once assembled, I'm sure it will serve you feverishly as it should. Just don't go chasing waterfalls with this one. It's just a case. A very expensive one. Do you need it? Hopefully the above will help you decide!