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Video Perspective: Corsair Carbide Air 540 Case Review

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Manufacturer: Corsair

A unique enthusiast chassis

The Corsair Carbide Air 540 is a very unique case.  It fits a full size ATX motherboard and up to four dual-slot graphics cards but it's shorter than you might expect thanks to a design choice that splits the active components from the mostly passive ones.  The result is a case that is more square than rectangular yet still combines the charm of Corsair designs with the performance enthusiasts want.

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For the best view of the case check out the video review below and then continue on for some additional photos and commentary.

Divided into two side by side compartments, the Air 540 has a unique front style merging a mesh look on the left with matte black paint on the right.

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The right hand side includes two 5.25-in optical drive bays turned 90 degrees to fit in the smaller right hand compartment.  Honestly, I am looking forward to the day that a case vendor is gutsy enough to leave off optical bays completely in an enthusiast design as I just think they take away from the overall appeal and looks.

Continue reading our review of the Corsair Carbide Air 540 Case!!

Under the bays you'll find the power and reset buttons, audio connections and a pair of USB 3.0 ports.  I do wish we had more front panel connections as that is more frequently what I need to access.

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The left side door features a full size window with a nice tint job on it so it can drive down the highway without being judged.  Also it makes it easy to show off all your hardware.

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As the main compartment this is where most of your hard working gear will go.  A full sized ATX motherboard spans from top to bottom yet leave room up top for water cooling.  This image shows a Radeon HD 7990 installed in the Air 540 as it is the longer current generation offering we had in the office; no problems there.  Corsair includes a set of three AF140L fans that can move a lot of air without making a lot of noise, two in the front for intake and one in the back for exhaust.

Under the motherboard you'll see our red Corsair SSD and it is here we should note that the Air 540 will only hold two 3.5-in hard drives.  Yes, two.  Those sleds at the bottom of the case are hot swap capable which is nice, but users that want more than a pair of hard drives are going to need to look elsewhere or find some 5.25-in to 3.5-in drive bay adapters.  Support for additional 2.5-in drives is available on the opposite side.

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This diagram provided by Corsair shows the available locations for water cooling radiators and shows a lot of the Air 540's flexibility.

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A look into the right hand compartment shows us where the power supply lives as well as the cables necessary for communications wind up.  (Note: you should clean up your cables a lot better than this but even with this nest of wires in the back you can see how clean things look through the windows out front.)

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This sled will hold up to four additional 2.5-in drives, SSD or HDD, freeing up those front sleds for the 3.5-in hard drives you'll likely still be using for a couple years to come.  They are completely tool less and simply lock in place when pushed in.

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My biggest complaint about the Carbide Air 540 is here: where the optical bay try would be if we hadn't removed it.  Do you see that primary ATX power cable running through the cable routing hole?  That is RIGHT where the edge of the optical bay tray would be if it were still there making it nearly impossible to feed the large power connector through without pinching our fingers.  Since we weren't using any optical drives in this build, we simply removed it but I can't imagine why Corsair didn't find another way to set this up for easier installation of all components.

Despite that flaw and a couple of other nit-picks to be found in the video review above, we really liked our time building in and using the Corsair Carbide Air 540.  It is a unique design that not only works easily out of the box but has a lot of flexibility for water and air cooling.  At Quakecon 2013 this year I found several of the Air 540's in the BYOC that were great starter kits for modding.

Better yet, with a price tag of just $139 it is quite affordable!  It doesn't have all the bells and whistles of other Corsair cases like the Obsidian series but it will make a great case for a lot of enthusiasts!

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August 26, 2013 | 12:46 AM - Posted by Mr.Llama (not verified)

This case is DEFINITELY the case im buying for my next build. I still have trouble doing good cable management, and this will greatly help! Of course ill still try my best at cable management.

August 26, 2013 | 03:12 AM - Posted by Tim (not verified)

Don`t like the optical bay thing...plus sideways disks.

August 26, 2013 | 09:14 PM - Posted by Fluxcored

If you look at the image of the empty component side (blue radiator overlays) it seems that the issue with the optical drives is almost entirely avoided by routing the 24pin cable through the grommet just below the one used in the video.

Great review. Thanks!

August 26, 2013 | 03:13 AM - Posted by Tim (not verified)

Why so many fans if it has water/fluid cooling ?

August 26, 2013 | 12:19 PM - Posted by Wilbur (not verified)

That is because most of the system is air cooled, even though the CPU is water cooled. And the radiator still needs air. Considering the 7990 in this particular build, fans are much appreciated.

August 26, 2013 | 03:02 PM - Posted by Ian0921 (not verified)

1. they came with case

2. only CPU is water cooled. you still need air movement for GPU and memory

August 26, 2013 | 10:45 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

It would be nice to see a picture of the side panel on the side you install the hard drives and PSU. I was wondering if there was a vent where the PSU was housed to draw in cool air.

In the video, you show a split second of the side panel cover which shows the vents over the area the PSU intake fan would be, but a picture of all sides would have been nice!

August 26, 2013 | 11:48 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Sorry, you're right, totally forgot about that.  

August 26, 2013 | 05:49 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

This case lookas like it's a clean cablemanager's dream so why so ugly with the cables ? To my untrained eye that case looks about twice as wide as your average case. Does this create a large echo chamber? How loud is this thing with standard fans?

Kudos to Corsair for at least trying something interesting. I have Corsair 600T and that's a bloody good case to build in.

August 26, 2013 | 05:50 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

This case lookas like it's a clean cablemanager's dream so why so ugly with the cables ? To my untrained eye that case looks about twice as wide as your average case. Does this create a large echo chamber? How loud is this thing with standard fans?

Kudos to Corsair for at least trying something interesting. I have Corsair 600T and that's a bloody good case to build in.

August 26, 2013 | 09:04 PM - Posted by Fluxcored

Any one else flip the rear fan to intake when using top mounted radiators/exhaust?

August 26, 2013 | 11:35 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

i think this would be cool but with:

m-atx only
sfx psu only
no 5.25" bays

August 28, 2013 | 02:06 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Why isn't this case only in black? No red or white?

C'mon corsair. You go to great lengths to think out of the box and make an interesting case and present it just like all the other manufacturer's in cookie cutter dark gray/black?

August 28, 2013 | 02:20 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Ryan, how does the side / upright DVD/CD drive slot affect it's usage?

I have burned media on side mounted and they sometimes have a surprisingly high failure rate on checksum. The problem goes away when I simply have the same drive mounted in the in the normal / flat position.

Also, I've damaged CD's as they fall out and get chipped when they hit the floor in the side mount position.

August 28, 2013 | 02:22 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

It appears the SSD bay is actually touching the PSU. I've got an HX850 that can run pretty hot to touch, I'm not sure how I feel about putting my SSDs in direct contact/close proximity to them as I imagine they would transfer heat to the SSD.

And with no fans in the second cable bay, your just allowing the heat to build up and slowly dissipate. Not sure how I feel about no push/pull airflow for 2nd chamber.

September 1, 2013 | 02:22 PM - Posted by Paul Mitchell (not verified)

Thanks, Ryan!

There are tons of 5.25" coolers for 3.5" HDDs
that will fit in one or both of the optical drive bays.

Vantec has a nice one that is tool-less:
model EZ SWAP 4 -- we have several and
the LED looks great during operation.

Lots of server cases orient 2.5" HDDs vertically,
and they seem to work OK that way.

Or, the space for the 2 x 5.25" bays could
be "modded" to orient HDDs horizontally.

Also, if one is opposed to the vertical orientation,
one could always opt for an external USB DVD enclosure:
I know, kinda defeats the purpose of such a spacious
case, but this is a practical option.

Another option is a slim DVD burner that shares
one of the 5.25" bays with 2 x 2.5" bays
e.g. Icy Dock has a nice "combo" unit like that.

Thanks again, Ryan.

September 1, 2013 | 02:26 PM - Posted by Paul Mitchell (not verified)

p.s. That Icy Dock "combo" unit is
model ToughArmor MB994IPO-3SB .

I don't have any slim DVD burners,
but I think the spindle has a
locking mechanism at the axis,
just like a plastic CD-ROM case.

September 1, 2013 | 02:44 PM - Posted by Paul Mitchell (not verified)

I just checked with my tape measure,
and a standard 3.5" HDD is only 5/8" wider
than the width of the Antec ATX PSU
that I put next to it.

Corsair should consider offering an
optional 3.5" drive bay to mount
directly above the PSU.

An 80mm fan could be integrated
into that drive cage too.

An older Thermaltake chassis that I recently
disassembled had such a setup at the upper rear
of that chassis.

October 1, 2013 | 04:23 PM - Posted by Paulzz (not verified)

That's what's holding me off. I have a giant ass cosmos 2 and love the carbide 540's look and it's relatively compact size. I have 6 x 3.5" HDD's and I haven't found anyone that's able to tell me if a 4 in 3 hard drive cage would sit fine on top of the PSU if I pulled out the SSD cage. If it did, I'd buy it.

September 1, 2013 | 02:54 PM - Posted by Paul Mitchell (not verified)

It's no longer in stock at Newegg,
but they still have photos of that Tt chassis:

search for:
Thermaltake Armor Series VA8003BWS Black Full Tower Case

... and in the photo gallery look at the drive cage
at upper rear, right next to the PSU bay.

That exhaust fan there is mounted on the chassis, however,
not on the drive cage like some really old Antec chassis.

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