Corsair Carbide Air 540 Conclusion
The Carbide Air 540 performed well. It can easily handle most of the common/popular configurations. It struggled with high temperature overclocked Crossfire X configurations (7970 and 7950 @ 1050MHz), but most cases do in that particular instance. Not to mention, using some high powered exhaust fans up top instead of intaking cool air for the CPU radiator may give better results as well (for the GPU, not for the CPU). I’m sure there’s some room for improvement if you want to dig into some aftermarket fan options, but as delivered I would be satisfied with the performance. Throw in the ease of use factor, and those hiccups become minor issues that are easily dismissed due to how easy it is to build in the Carbide Air 540!
The Carbide Air 540 looks good as well. This is the most subjective rating of all of them, but it was refreshing to have a good looking case that wasn’t a black monolith. I liked the way Corsair designed the intake and exhaust grills/mesh, and the whole thing has a very server/industrial vibe to it. The plastic used doesn’t really look or feel like plastic, and the color/finish is great!
The construction of the Carbide Air 540 is par with Corsair’s other cases (specifically the Carbide series). This series was meant to be a little more accessible than the Obsidian series, for example. This means that it’s a little lighter than it looks, and the steel a little thinner than more expensive cases. The Carbide Air 540 does not suffer because of this – it is one of the sturdiest cases I’ve used, and I fully expect it to provide years of service without any problems. If anything, the thinner panels and higher airflow let quite a bit of noise escape, but to get a well built case with this much functionality AND muffle noise, you’ll need to pay quite a bit more.
Speaking of functionality, this thing has it in spades. If you’re a constant tinkerer (like I imagine many enthusiasts are), this case is one of the best on the market in my opinion. It can fit almost any configuration, and do it simply, quickly, and neatly. The tool-less features throughout (that are truly tool-less!) make adding and swapping components enjoyable! You may have to give up some 3.5″ bays for the privilege, but there’s isn’t much else you have to compromise when you build a system in the Carbide Air 540.
The thing is, a computer case is the one component that one could technically do without – adding $100 to any other component gets you quite a bit more in almost every scenario. As of the mid-July 2013, the Carbide Air 540 was listed for $129.37 (Amazon | NewEgg) - so why spend the money here? In short, it’s a great value. This is one of those cases that you really get your money’s worth, especially if you are working inside your computer often (swapping components, trying different builds, etc.). This is a case that will make your life easier, accommodate various builds, and look good while holding/protecting all of your expensive components. It isn’t perfect, but it’s well worth the price. There are a lot of cases to choose from at this price point, but very few will give you the sheer amount of functionality and builder-friendly features that the Carbide Air 540 will.
If I can sum up my experience with this case, it’s the following: we need more manufacturers to think like this. Corsair is relatively new to the computer case scene, and with every release they seem to deliver an enclosure that contains features you just don’t find in many other cases. I can say with certainty this is a case I would wholly recommend to anyone that likes to tinker inside their builds, as I’ve never had such an easy time working around inside a computer case. I hope to see more innovation in this direction from Corsair and other manufacturers, and feel the Carbide Air 540 deserves a Silver Tachometer award at the very least for delivering a unique enclosure full of forward-thinking features and overall excellent build quality and performance. The attention to detail and pure thought that went into the design of the Carbide Air 540 will hopefully push the rest of the industry to experiment and innovate with some other unique designs. It won’t accommodate absolutely every crazy build out there, but it gets pretty close – and the usability features more than make up for any shortcomings.
+ Lots of airflow
+ Appearance, build quality
+ Numerous time-saving features
+ Accommodates almost every type of build
+ Ridiculously easy to build a system in
+ Partitioned layout works very well
+ Tool-less throughout
+ Hinged side panels!
- Might be difficult to place in/around most desks…
- Stock fans are adequate, but slightly noisy
- Struggles with hot GPUs in stock form, although experimenting with the fan configuration may help…
- Fans lack PWM or a controller
Final Score: 8.90 out of 10.
Quality Recognition: Benchmark Reviews Silver Tachometer Award.
COMMENT QUESTION: Who makes your favorite computer case?