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Cooler Master Storm Sniper Case Review

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lemonlime

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Cooler Master Storm Sniper Case Review




Manufacturer Product Page: Sniper - Cooler Master
Product Number: SGC-6000-KKN1-GP
TechWiki Info: Cooler Master Storm Sniper -- TechWiki
Availability: Now
Warranty: 2-Year
Price: Click here to compare prices.



Founded over ten years ago, Cooler Master has become a major player in the “thermal solutions” arena. Although probably best known for their computer cases, Cooler Master also produces fans, heatsinks and power supplies. We’ve seen quite a few Cooler Master cases pass through the labs over the last few months, including the ATSC 840 and HAF 932 that have gained quite a bit of popularity in the enthusiast community. Since we were so impressed with the aforementioned models, we didn’t hesitate to take a look at their latest enthusiast offering—the Cooler Master Storm Sniper.

The “Storm Series” is a completely new line of cases from Cooler Master that tailors specifically to hardware enthusiasts and gamers. Although the Sniper is the only case in the Storm series to date, we expect to see other cases emerge throughout the year. In case you were wondering, Cooler Master describes the Storm series with the statement: “..guarantees unbeatable, secure reliability that is completely tuned to gamers’ needs. With a total dedication to Strength, Security and Control, Storm Tactics will keep your most vital gear fortified and well tuned at all times.” Although that is an absolutely off the wall statement, we can’t argue about the rich feature set that the Storm Sniper brings to the table.

To put it plainly, the Sniper is not your average mid-tower case. With two massive 200mm fans, a military grade appearance and tons of convenience features, it is pretty clear what kind of buyers reside in the crosshairs of the Sniper. It really seems that 120mm fans are going the way of the dinosaur, with more and more oversize models hitting the market lately. We’ve seen 140mm, 180mm, 200mm and even some 230mm fans shipping these days. Smaller 80 and 92mm fans are virtually unheard of in enthusiast cases these days. Another interesting area that Cooler Master is focusing on with the Storm series cases is peripheral security with their “StormGuard” system. Buyers can secure their USB peripherals to prevent theft at public LAN events. This feature coupled with a rugged design and recessed carrying handles makes it a potential choice for those frequenting public gaming events.

Without further ado, let’s take a closer look at the Cooler Master Storm Sniper!



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lemonlime

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Features and Specifications

Features and Specifications

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lemonlime

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Packaging & Accessories

Packaging & Accessories

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The Cooler Master Storm Sniper ships in a fairly large and colourful box. Some of the product’s key features are listed alongside some exterior shots of the case. To be honest, we had a very strong desire to play a few rounds of Counter Strike after staring at the box for a few minutes.

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Although the box was fairly large, it was not terribly wide, which concerned us since the last thing anyone wants to see if their latest purchase damaged during shipping. Online part vendors do not package these behemoth boxes within other boxes for shipping purposes, so it is understandably important to have a well padded and spaced package.

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Thankfully, our sample arrived in good condition, but the small amount of Styrofoam protects only the top and bottom of the case. This means that there is only a thin spacing between the sides of the case and the cardboard exterior. The entire case is enclosed in a plastic bag to keep the dust out.

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Not a lot is included with the Sniper in the way of accessories. Four rubber feet, two water cooling grommets, a bag of screws and some 3.5 inch drive bay rails are included. Cooler Master includes a thorough manual with many diagrams. Any installation issues will likely be addressed there. For anyone interested, the manual is also available online.
 
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lemonlime

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Exterior Impressions

Exterior Impressions

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Once we got the case all unpacked, we were pretty surprised by its size. To put it bluntly, this is a big case. This is not just due to its height, but also its extra wide stance and extendable feet.

The Sniper also left us with a good first impression as far as build quality was concerned. The case is not at all flimsy, and the plastics used appear to be of good quality. The black painted exterior parts appear to use a durable and scratch resistant finish as well.


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Rather than using acrylic windows, the Sniper instead utilizes mesh screen for both internal viewing and ventilation. This may cut down on how much your LAN party buddies can see of your current setup but also has its benefits. You won't have to worry about the usual scratching that happens to an acrylic window after time but the mesh will tend to let quite a bit of noise to escape the innards of the Sniper.

From a side profile, the Sniper appears anything but square. It looks almost like a vintage CRT television if you stare at it long enough at this angle.

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As we move to the rear of the Storm Sniper, we see that this case employs a bottom mounted PSU and a fairly standard layout with a single 120mm exhaust fan. This is about the only “fairly standard” thing about the Storm Sniper as you’ll see shortly.

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The expansion slot brackets are vented to ensure toasty video card exhaust can find a way out of the case. This is a very beneficial feature that is becoming ever more common in enthusiast grade cases and won't result in too much excess dust from entering due to the natural airflow characteristics of the Sniper.

To the right of the expansion slots, we find what appears to be an oddly positioned slot. No, this is not some kind of strange new extension of the ATX specification, but a proprietary security feature that we’ll get into a bit later.

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Two water cooling grommets can be found just above the exhaust fan. We were disappointed to see a stamped fan grille as wire grills provide better airflow, can be replaced and are a little more aesthetically pleasing. Then again, there are always some corners being cut here and there for the sake of cost.

On a positive note, the stamped grille includes mounting holes for 120, 92 and 80mm fans; although we’re not sure why anyone would bother with a smaller exhaust fan.

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The PSU opening includes mounting holes in the appropriate locations to mount the PSU right side up, or upside down. To the right of the PSU are two punch-out holes that can be used for additional water cooling tube access and Cooler Master even includes two grommets are included in the accessory bundle if the buyer chooses to use this feature.
 
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lemonlime

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Exterior Impressions pg.2

Exterior Impressions pg.2

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From the front, we can quite literally see right through the case. This is due to the fact that all of the drive bay covers are filtered mesh as well as the large fan grille below that hints to the massive 200mm fan beneath it. The case has five 5.25 inch drive bays as well as one that can be converted to 3.5 inches for a floppy drive or card reader.

The top of the case is quite a sight. All of the case’s I/O ports, switches, LEDs and even a fan controller can be found toward the front and a massive 200mm exhaust fan can be found toward the back.

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A closer look at the I/O cluster reveals no less than four USB ports, a 1394 port, an e-SATA port and the essential AC-97 audio connectors. For fan control, a large dial that aesthetically dominates the front of the case is present on the panel next to the ports. In the center of this same dial is a button used to turn on and off the LEDs embedded in the 200mm fans. This is actually an excellent albeit industrial-looking solution for controlling the speed and illumination of the fans which incorporates both functions into one control surface.

A very handy feature of the Storm Sniper is the metal reinforced, recessed handles at the top of the case. Although the case is constructed of steel and weighs a hearty 23 pounds, the handles allow it to be moved around with ease, making it a worthy LAN gaming case. It seems that Cooler Master really did listen to the gaming community regarding what they want as this is something plenty of LAN party regulars ask for.

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Almost the entire bottom of the Sniper is vented to allow the overall negative pressure within and the optional bottom fan to draw cool air upwards. A PSU with a bottom mounted fan will also be able to breathe freely thanks to this design.

The four retractable feet are a nice feature that helps to ground the case a bit better, but we found that they flexed a bit too much if the case was tilted. They can be removed and replaced with the included rubber feet if so desired.
 
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lemonlime

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Interior Impressions

Interior Impressions


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Once we cracked open the side panel (which is unfortunately not attached with thumb screws), we were immediately impressed with the spaciousness to be found in the Storm Sniper. Although the case does not support E-ATX motherboards, there is plenty of front-to-back space for even the longest video cards.

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Five hard drives can be installed in the Storm Sniper using removable drive caddies. Although the cadies make for quick removal, they do not dock into any sort of hot-swap adapter; cabling needs to be connected normally from the other side of the case.

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Much like the SilverStone Fortress FT01 that we recently reviewed, the Sniper employs push-button optical drive mounting. This is a fantastic feature that we wish all cases had; it really makes installing 5.25 inch devices a snap and there is no need to fumble with “those little screws” that everyone hates so much.

Basically, all you have to do is insert your drive and push down the button to secure it in place. Talk about simple.

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Cooler Master tapes a paper template to the motherboard tray to help buyers identify the standoff locations for ATX and MATX boards. Cut-outs for the mounting holes allow the installer to quickly install the standoffs and then remove the template but we would much rather have seen a stamped motherboard tray just in case this template is somehow lost.

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As we alluded to earlier, the Sniper includes a very unique security feature dubbed “StormGuard”. It simply allows USB peripherals to be wrapped through the openings to “securely” fasten them to your PC. Basically, with this you won't have to worry that an unsavoury character at a LAN party will be able to easily snag your precious G15 keyboard or gaming mouse while you take a bathroom break. Since this case is definitely tailored for transport to LAN parties, we believe this is a very useful feature but remember; if someone wants to steal your hardware badly enough, this won’t stop them. None the less, it is a good deterrent that surely makes it a difficult task.

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Cooler Master provides a good sized stamped vent opening for PSUs with bottom mounted fans, and two padded spacing strips that keep the PSU from sitting directly on the metal floor of the case.

Just in front of the PSU is an optional 140mm fan mounting location. The mounting bracket included can secure a 140mm fan in place without using any screws, but mounting holes are included for the more common 120mm fan varieties. This also makes for a potential water cooling radiator mounting location. Provided a long PSU isn’t utilized, a single 120mm radiator could be mounted here as pictured.
 
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lemonlime

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Interior Impressions pg.2

Interior Impressions pg.2

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Perhaps one of the Cooler Master Sniper’s most touted features is its massive 200mm fans. It seems that case manufacturers are pushing the envelope more and more with oversize fans and this case is no different. Standard 120mm fans are positively dwarfed in comparison.

The main selling point of these larger fans is the claim that they are supposed to push more air at lower RPMs which will result in less noise produced. This is basically what everyone from a self-styled "gamer" to a HTPC user is looking for but if you are looking for a replacement, you may be fresh out of luck.

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Two identical 200mm fans can be found both at the front of the case and the top; a front fan intake and a roof-mounted exhaust fan. Cooler Master also provides the option of installing an additional 200mm fan on the mesh side panel for direct motherboard cooling, but warns that very tall CPU coolers may interfere with this optional fan. Connectors for both LED and fan control are included for this fan already.

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The 200mm fans used in the Storm Sniper are Cooler Master labelled fans that turned up very little information online. They are rated for a maximum rotational speed of 1000RPM and a noise rating of 23dbA. The 200mm fans spin as slowly as 500RPM using the included fan controller. Even though their CFM rating is not provided by Cooler Master, but we’d imagine it is fairly high considering its large diameter.

The 120mm exhaust fan turned up a bit more information as it appears to have been used by Cooler Master in quite a few of their cases. This particular model is a sleeve bearing fan rated for 1200RPM and a draw of only 0.16A at 12V. At full speed the fan is rated for about 44CFM and 19.8dbA.

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Thanks to the plethora of I/O connectors and the integrated fan/LED controller on the top panel, a real rat’s nest of cables can be found behind the drive cage. It’s certainly not going to be easy to hide all of the leads, but there are plenty of places to zip-tie things down and the unused hard drive caddies can be used to stuff extra leads.

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With the plastic top shroud removed, we’re greeted with a pleasant surprise. Not only can the 200mm exhaust fan be removed, but mouting holes for two 120mm fans or a dual 120mm radiator are already present. Thankfully, this means that no weekend dremel work is necessary to get a compact internal radiator installed.

The handles recessed underneath the plastic top are solid metal and very sturdy. Buyers do not need to worry about the top falling off, or the handles breaking when carrying around their rig.


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Behind the motherboard tray, we find quite a few notches in the steel for zip-ties and a large cut-out behind the CPU socket. Cooler Master says this opening can be used to access motherboard back plates which in turn supposedly eliminates the need to remove the motherboard for higher-end heatsink installation.
 
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lemonlime

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Installation

Installation

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We started by installing the PSU, which went without a hitch which is a departure from some cases where we have had to really fight to install this one component. The opening at the bottom of the motherboard tray allows PSU leads to run in less conspicuous locations and keeps them out of the bottom of the case. From this point you are able to run the wires behind the motherboard tray which is definitely a plus considering the bottom-mounted PSU.

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Due to the shear volume of cables coming out of that top panel, it is next to impossible to get them under control. Indeed, we did our best with the huge mess of header leads, but no quantity of zip-ties could completely remedy the rat’s nest we had to deal with behind the drive bays.

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Installing the motherboard was a piece of cake. Although the motherboard tray is not removable, the case is so spacious that we had no difficulty getting it in place. The motherboard headers were also able to conveniently route through the tray opening to the correct board location.

Although tool-less installation is a positive thing, we found the expansion bracket retention clips to be a bit lacking. Once we snapped them in place, the video card still moved around a bit too much for our liking. Sometimes some good old case screws can go a long way, but the clips are definitely a positive thing if you are constantly swapping out video cards.

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Installing the hard drive into a caddy was a piece of cake. The tool-less theme continues here with threadless posts that simply snap into place. They seemed to hold the drive firmly enough in place as the rubber washers provided a bit of extra grip.
 
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lemonlime

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Installation pg.2

Installation pg.2

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As with the SilverStone Fortress FT01, the push-button mounting system made optical drive installation a piece of cake and we had our DVD-RW drive installed in about three seconds. It should also be noted that a filter mesh can be found behind each of the bay covers to help keep dust out of the case.

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Once we had the system completely assembled, we were pleased with the spaciousness and accessibility of the components in the Storm Sniper. This is a very practical and easy to work with case while maintaining a certain exterior style that is sure to appeal to its intended market.

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Although great in theory, the tray opening definitely won’t work with all scenarios. With our Biostar TA770+ board, the AM2 backplate was a few millimetres too long and was not accessible via the opening in the tray. We’d wager a guess that the vast majority of LGA 775 backplates will be accessible with the Storm Sniper thanks to their symmetrical shape.

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With the side panel attached, the interior of the case is visible to some extent, but the mesh is nothing like an acrylic window. With the LED fans turned on and low ambient lighting, the interior of the case can be seen much more easily.


Acoustic and Initial Running Impressions

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The two 200mm fans are both LED models that have a soft blue glow when activated via the top panel and none of the LEDs are overly bright. With the LEDs on, the front intake grille reveals a crosshair that was not previously visible—how clever!

We were very pleased with the acoustical properties of the case. We found the oversize 200mm fans to be almost dead silent at lower rotational speed and very quiet at full speed. Although case noise tolerance is definitely in the ear of the beholder, we would have no reservation leaving the fans at full-bore to maximize the cooling performance of the case while enjoying relatively quiet operation. And speaking of cooling performance, these massive fans flow a great deal of air. The front fan is unfortunately not being put to the best use though, as the drive cage is a bit too restrictive and can block airflow to the video card or cards.

The 120mm exhaust fan is also fairly quiet and feels strong given its rated output.
 
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lemonlime

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Conclusion

Conclusion

So there you have it! If we had to sum up the Storm Sniper in one sentence, we’d do that by saying that it is an extremely practical and easy to work with case. Cooler Master claims to have spent countless days at Lan Parties to gauge the ins and outs of what gamers really want in an enclosure. We now say that this is no idle boast as we can see the Sniper as a must-have item for gamers who want to replace their current enclosures with something infinitely more practical.

Of all the features the Sniper brings to the table, we were most impressed with its extremely spacious and easy to work with interior. Cooler Master paid a great deal of attention to detail and implemented some great cable management and tool-less installation features that made working with it a real pleasure. Its spacious interior also made tasks like installing the motherboard a real piece of cake and the sturdy top handles and the StormGuard security feature make it a great choice to bring to LAN events.

In the performance department, Cooler Master has definitely put a lot of thought into the design. The case is very well ventilated with oversize 200mm fans, optional fan mounting locations and some healthy watercooling potential. The included fan and LED controller also provides a nice degree of performance and noise control. The fans selected for the case were all very quiet at even maximum RPM. Just about anyone concerned with quiet operation will be satisfied with the Sniper in this regard. The only real complaint we have about airflow is the somewhat restrictive drive cage that blocks some much needed airflow to the video cards. Thankfully an intake fan installed in the optional floor location will remedy this issue.

About the only real criticism we have of the Sniper is the somewhat flimsy expansion slot clips and the excessive number of connectors leading to the top I/O plate and these are very minor gripes. Overall we were quite pleased with the Cooler Master Storm Sniper. Priced at around the $200 mark, it is certainly not a cheap case, but given its solid construction, spacious interior and rich set of features, we’d consider this to be a fair price. As such, we’re pleased to award the Storm Sniper with Hardware Canuck’s “DAM GOOD” award.


Pros:

- Good build quality
- Lots of space
- Quiet and oversize 200mm fans
- Watercooling potential
- Thoughtful cable management features
- Sturdy handles and security features for LAN events
- Lots of I/O connectors on the top panel


Cons:

- Flimsy expansion slot clips
- Lots of header and fan connectors to hide away
- Packaging a bit inadequate

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Thanks to Cooler Master for sending us this case​
 
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