Cooler Master has been using a tried-and-true formula for extending their more-than-successful HAF (High Air Flow) line of advanced PC enclosures. And while this concept hardly packs any “wow” effect anymore, in all honesty, there’s no reason to step down from it just yet, which brings us to the latest member of the family, namely HAF XM. The new HAF is practically a derivative of the larger HAF X model, as indicated by its name, while the M stands for “medium”, i.e. a mid-tower enclosure. However, regardless of the actual dimensions, everything that you’re used to with the older brother is still there, making this model perfect for all those who wish full-tower specs in a more compact packaging.
The box contains not only the well-insulated, neatly packed enclosure, but also a set of appropriate screws, bumpers, plastic zip tighteners for cable management, and of course, a detailed manual. HAF XM differs little from other HAF models visually, which implies a robust design and aggressive approach, outlining the gaming aspect. With a lot of sharp lines and netty surfaces used to provide an unhindered airflow, all made of either high-quality black plastic or metal, this enclosure will leave few indifferent. Simply enough, HAF’s design may or may not appeal to everyone, but the fans far outweigh the haters. The front isn’t all that different from the rest of the HAF family either and is characterised by two sections. The lower half is covered by a net with a large Cooler Master logo in the middle, hiding a 200 mm fan in charge of supplying fresh air, while the upper half of the front service is reserved for three 5.25” devices, as well as two company-made X-dock hot-swap slots. The X-dock slots will take both 3.5” and 2.5” drives. The very top houses the front I/O panel, which is missing a few connections, such as Firewire and eSATA, but these two are seldom used anyway, so we can’t really consider this a flaw. The left side of the panel has two USB 2.0 ports, the right one two USB 3.0, while the middle is occupied by audio jacks (phones/mic). The panel basically “grows” into the top surface, containing the large central power button, while the left- and right-hand sides display LED and reset buttons, respectively. The LED button is used to turn the red LED lighting on the front 200 mm fan on or off. Further on, the “roof” of the enclosure has an ever-so-useful dent for keeping personal things such as keys, mobile phone or a USB flash disk, and its bottom is covered by high-quality rubber which reduces vibrations and noise during use. Most of the top surface is occupied by two large exhaust slots, covered with appropriate nets. Only one 200 mm exhaust fan is present by default, and the other one, 200 mm or smaller in diameter, can be inserted if the user so desires. The entire upper panel is removable as a lid by unscrewing a single screw, which enables easy mounting/unmounting and cleaning of the existing fans. Of course, you can always opt to install water-cooling radiators up to 280 mm in length instead of the fans. The back panel is standard, with its I/O panel slot and 8+1 extension slots, a 140 mm fan, PSU slot and three rubber-coated holes for water-cooling pipes. The sides of this HAF are slightly convex, i.e. bulging outward, which provides extra space for components located within, especially CPU coolers of all sizes, without fear that they’ll end up too high for the side panel. The left side panel is a bit peculiar in terms of mounting back on the enclosure, as it doesn’t use the “old-school” sliding mechanism. The panel needs to be hanged onto the semi-hinges on the bottom, and then raised vertically to catch the upper edge; afterwards, it’s the handle situated in the top section of the tin panel that controls the release of the panel itself, which drops it the same way back down. A very simple and, most of all, practical system, which significantly eases the removal of the side panel and access to internal components. Still, for extra security, there’s also two standards screws on the back, usable if the need arises (during transport, for instance). The panel itself has another netty surface, housing two 120/140 mm fans or a single 200 mm one, and there’s even a model of the HAF XM enclosure that has a window instead of the fan openings.
The interior is richly equipped with many rubber-coated openings, intended to ease the concealment or management of cables, either for visual purposes or to increase airflow. All surfaces are black, as expected, and room is ampler than you’d expect from a mid-tower enclosure, making it possible to install both CPU coolers up to 19.6 cm high, but also the longest graphics cards currently available on the market. The surface used to mount the motherboard therefore has not only all the opening for hiding cables, but also a large gap to make it easier to install large CPU coolers. But that’s not all, HAF XM has yet another ace up its sleeve – the “hidden” 2.5” socket placed on the motherboard holder, or more accurately, between the holder and the right side panel. According to Cooler Master, this is the ideal spot for a 2.5” system SSD drive, and we concur. The enclosure has a total of eight 3.5” slots, six internal and two X-dock slots in the front, but you can, of course, install 2.5” drives into these as well. Brackets are made of high-quality foldable plastic, which simplifies drive installation. Unfortunately, no 3.5” devices can be mounted into the 5.25” slots, as the bundle doesn’t contain rails or brackets to make this possible. The entire drive cage is located right behind the front 200 mm fan, which provides adequate cooling as well. The PSU is located at the already standard back bottom position, with ample room even for the longest units. The extension of the PSU slot contains a sort of plastic cover, taken from the larger HAF X model, used to conceal all cables coming directly out of the PSU. This will be of immense aid to those that still don’t have a modular PSU, therefore requiring all cables to be present in the enclosure at all times. The entire construction lies on the surface via four bumpers with a fine aluminium finish, with the bottom rubber-coated, of course. All extra fan openings (as well as those already occupied) have dust intrusion protection, but not in the form of usual dust filters we’re already accustomed to; it’s merely another layer of net which should protect the interior from dust, but only to a certain extent. If you think this is a drawback, think again – it’s a proven fact that proper dust filters decrease airflow, so Cooler Master decided to deal away with them in order to stay true to the family’s main attribute, its high airflow. By the way, all drive installation can be done without any extra tools required, and the system enabling this is neat, intuitive and efficient.
HAF XM is a very well-balanced Cooler Master enclosure, positioned right between the large HAF X and the significantly smaller HAF 923, which we believe will be good news to many potential buyers, as it seems that this size is the sweet spot on today’s market – an enclosure large enough to pack all the features of the greatest and most expensive models, such as external USB 3.0 connectors, screw-less installation, advanced cable management and sufficient room for even the largest CPU coolers and longest graphics cards, but all that at a more acceptable price point and form factor. The excellent cooling system isn’t to be disregarded when talking about HAF XM, including some unique features, such as the PSU cable cover, for instance. All in all, if you’ve always liked the HAF design, but found HAF X to be too large, then this enclosure is definitely the right one for you.