|Introduction and Specifications|
|When we sat down to review Corsair's acclaimed 700D and 800D chassis, we couldn't help reflecting on how much the PC case market has evolved over the last decade. Ten years ago, when we were cutting our teeth on CPUs with code names like Coppermine and Thunderbird, enthusiast enclosures were few and far between. With the exception of Lian-Li, which was building $200+ all-aluminum nerd artwork even back then, the majority of the companies providing cases to the DIY market were busy churning out beige boxes with features that included:
Above, we have the 700D and 800D side-by-side. The differences between the two models are minimal; the 800D is ~$50 more and offers four hot-swap hard drive bays and a case window. We've included photos of both cases in our review but unless it involves one of the stated features above, any photo of the 700D is also representative of the 800D.
First things first—here are the various bits and pieces Corsair includes with both the 700D and 800D. There's a basic quick-start guide, a variety of provided screws, standoffs, zip ties, and a single four-pin / eight-pin ATX12V cable extender. This is the sort of cable that could definitely come in handy during component installation, but Corsair should've gone the extra mile and included a 20/24-pin extension as well. Based on our experience, it's the 24-pin primary power cable that's more likely to need a few more inches.
Without further ado, on to the cases themselves.
The 700D is on the left, the 800D is on the right. Since the only difference between the two is the presence / absence of hot-swappable drive bays on the front, which case you choose will probably be determined by how badly you want this particular feature.
On the left you can see the 800D's drive trays. The trays themselves are screwless; hard drives can be quickly swapped and installed without the need to go hunting for a screw driver. On the right is the front panel port array common to both cases. The power button is to the far left (the LED is a nifty pearlescent), followed by two USB2 ports, a brace of audio jacks, another set of USB2's, one FireWire 400, and the reset button. The front panel has all the right jacks, but we're less-than-thrilled about their (admittedly common) location. This is one point we think Cooler Master nailed when it put the Cosmos front panel at the top-front of the case. Devices plugged into panels like the 800D's are all-too-likely to be hit by knees, chairs, small children, etc.
If you don't have any problems with the above or you keep your tower in a location that doesn't put it in the line of fire, than this is a non-issue.
The two thumbnails above are two different illustrations of the 800D's airflow patterns. The left shows the general flow of intakes and exhaust through the case (note that cold air is drawn from the floor while hot hair is exclusively exhausted throughout the various top grates. The power supply is an exception, but it draws cold air from the bottom of the case to cool itself before shoving the now-heated air out the back. Cold air flows into the upper case partition courtesy of a 120mm horizontally mounted fan.
On the right we have the 700D/800D's "cooling zones." According to Corsair, each zone is designed to cool the components within it independently, without allowing excess heat from the power supply to bleed into component space. Cooling zones 1 and 3 are self-explanatory, particularly with the help of the airflow diagram.
Cooling Zone 2 is a bit odd. According to the diagram, this zone "exhausts out the rear, via a chamber routed behind the motherboard tray." In reality, air blown in by the front fans hits the back wall of the case and meanders towards the rear in what is, at best, a leisurely sort of way.
Let's have a look inside, shall we?
Above are some stock shots of both cases. The only major internal difference between the two is the design of the hard drive bays. The 800D ships with a side-mounted fan and a preinstalled backplate for the four hot-swap drives. The 700D's hard drive fan is mounted horizontally instead of vertically, and all of the bays are internal.
Here is the 700D's hard drive bay, with drives installed and not. There's ample clearance for airflow between each drive and the installed fans should prevent the HDD bays from becoming a hot spot.
These are shots of the system's back ports for cable routing and removable rear plate for CPU cooler adjustment. Corsair cut enough holes through the case to allow for almost any type of cable on the market, with multiple routing points available for various cable lengths. If you obsess over cable ties, one of the Obsidian cases may be right for you—it's possible to shift virtually every cable in the system to route behind the motherboard.
The CPU plate is cut wide enough to allow for nearly any motherboard design and grants easy access to the mounting hardware. This feature comes in very handy if you're trying to diagnose a heat problem; instead of pushing and tugging on the heatsink mounts, you can check behind the case.
|Hardware installation, as you've probably guessed, was (almost) no problem. There's plenty of room for components, cables can be tucked through the back to get them out of the way, and even the hard drives attach screwlessly to their mounting rails. We've included a shot of a motherboard, power supply, and hard drives (with two drives installed side-by-side) below, to give you a sense of how the case comes together:
The only issue we encountered involved the 24-pin plug for the power supply. The installed PSU is a PC Power and Cooling 750W Silencer. Its 24-pin cable is 19" long. In order to attach the power supply to motherboard, I had to cut the zip-tie near the top of the power supply and manually sort, pull, and yank on the primary power connector until we found enough—barely enough—slack to attach it. Save for this one issue, hardware installation was a breeze, but since Corsair bothers to include a cable extender for the CPU 12V PSU line, it'd be nice if they threw in one for the 24-pin as well--especially considering how much this case costs. One of the potential advantages of an Obsidian case is that they're both very watercooling friendly. If you check the gap between the top of the motherboard and the top of the case, there's ample room to install a series of fans or a Koolance-style internal reservoir. Since the Origin Genesis system we reviewed last winter was built around an 800D, we've also included a few of the photos from that review as well.
The Origin shots are from the 800D, but the only difference between the two is the hard drive orientation. Check the shot on the right, and it's obvious that even a full bank of top-mounted fans doesn't squeeze the motherboard. Not only is there plenty of room for the Koolance setup, there's potentially enough room for a DIY watercooler with a significantly larger internal reservoir, particularly if you're willing to sacrifice some space in the 5.25" drive bays. The power supply bay is similarly voluminous--Thermaltake's 1200W Toughpower is ~3/4 of an inch longer than the 750W Quad Silencer, (7.1 inches vs. 7.8) but the 700D and 800D are built to accommodate PSU's at least 1.5" longer.
Here are some close-up shots of the motherboard + video cards (neither of the foot-long ATI 5970s has even the slightest bit of trouble fitting inside the enclosure). The second shot shows the back of the 800D after it's been wired to remove cable clutter from the front of the case. With the back plate off, you can see how much wiggle room Corsair provided for various motherboard designs that might move the CPU socket around a bit--this isn't a feature that risks being made useless by a nonstandard motherboard design.
|The Corsair Obsidian 700D and 800D are top-end products; Corsair's design team hit virtually every target one could set for a full-tower ATX enclosure. The 800D is designed for the enthusiast that wants a top-end case with all the bells and whistles and wants to show it off afterwards. If you want to do something special with case modding, or if you have a need for hot-swap hard drives, than the 800D is a great design. If, on the other hand, your mainly concerned with hardware, but don't care for the window and don't need the hot-swappable bays, the 700D is the better choice. It should go without saying that both cases are effectively future proof--there's no chance of the ATX spec evolving to a size that these chassis couldn't accommodate, and Corsair has already provided space for power supplies larger than even the 1200W units on the market today.
The one caveat to keep in mind when considering the 700D and 800D is that you don't need to spend this much money to buy an excellent enthusiast chassis. In this case (pun intended), the question of whether or not either chassis is worth its purchase price depends entirely on what you want to do with it. If you're a fan of Batcave Chic or you fall into one of the categories mentioned above, then it's a no-brainer. If you don't, there are other options that are more budget friendly. Alternatively, you may want to wait for Corsair's 600T, a mid-tower version of the 700D with LAN party-friendly changes and a price tag of just $149. We don't have an exact launch date on the 600T yet but Corsair expects it will arrive in time for the back-to-school season.