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Corsair Carbide 500R Performance Mid-Tower

Corsair’s popular Carbide 500R is a prototypical performance case placing a heavy emphasis on compatibility and airflow. Critical to its success is a monstrous 20 cm side fan bathing the graphics card and other components in cool air from outside.

Corsair Carbide 500R Performance Mid-Tower

May 1, 2015 by Lawrence Lee

Product
Corsair Carbide 500R
ATX Tower Case
Manufacturer
Price
US$110

The Carbide 500R is one of Corsair’s more popular models, especially among enthusiasts looking for superb cooling. Available with either black or white sides/tops, the 500R is an ATX tower with a prototypical high-performance design at a reasonable US$110 price. The case focuses primarily on compatibility and ventilation. It’s wide enough to support big CPU coolers, deep enough to accept long graphics cards, and sports numerous fan mounts to accommodate extra fans and radiators.


The Corsair Carbide 500R, unboxed.


In profile.

The one obvious killer feature is the enormous 20 cm fan sitting on the left side panel. Situated on an fairly open mesh grill, it’s positioned over the expansion slots, allowing it to dump copious amounts of cool air over the most of the system. In particular, it blows over the graphics card, which is typically power hungry and the most difficult to cool component in enthusiasts systems. A side fan can be a double-edged sword though, as it sits at exposed vents, so there’s less material blocking the noise.

The side panels jut out, ostensibly to keep the side fan from interfering with tall CPU coolers and to provide more room on the right side to ease cable management. This gives the chassis a slimmer profile but I find the contours to be unattractive (perhaps it looks better on the white version). Its semi-glossy surface feels smooth to the touch but is just as smudge-prone as most matte finish enclosures. To further enhance its aesthetics, the side and front fans are transparent and sport white LEDs, but the lighting is entirely optional. The integrated three-speed fan controller can cut the lights with the press of a button.


Accessories.

The 500R’s accessories are stuffed in a white box sitting in one of the drive trays inside the case. It contains all the necessary screws, bolts, and standoffs, all separately packaged in plastic bags, a few zip-ties and cable hooks, and a USB 3.0 to 2.0 internal adapter for users with motherboards that lack an internal USB 3.0 header.

Relevant Specifications: Corsair Carbide 500R
(from the
product web page
)
WarrantyTwo years
Weight7.53kg
ColorBlack
Case Form FactorMid-Tower
Dimensions521mm x 206mm x 508mm
Case Motherboard SupportMini-ITX, MicroATX, ATX, E-ATX
Maximum GPU Length452mm
Maximum CPU Cooler Height180mm
Maximum PSU Length300mm
Case Expansion Slots8
Case Drive Bays(x4) 5.25in
(x6) Combo 3.5in/2.5in
Case MaterialSteel
Case Power SupplyATX (not included)
External Connections(x2) USB 3.0
(x1) Fan Controller
(x1) Headphone Port
(x1) Microphone Port
Fan Mount LocationsFront: (x2) 120mm
Top: (x2) 120/140mm
Rear: (x1) 120/140mm
Bottom: (x1) 120/140mm
Side: (x1) 200mm or (x2) 120/140mm
Mid: (x2) 120mm
Fans IncludedFront: (x2) 120mm
Rear: (x1) 120mm
Side: (x1) 200mm
Radiator Mount LocationsFront: 120/240mm
Top: 240/280mm
Rear: 120/140mm
Bottom: 120/140mm
Compatible Corsair Liquid CoolersH55, H60, H75, H80i, H90, H100i, H110

EXTERIOR & SIDE PANEL

The Carbide 500R is constructed out of steel and that includes the front and top panels unlike most towers which typically use plastic for these portions. Corsair lists its dimensions as 52.1 x 20.6 x 50.8 cm or 20.5 x 8.1 x 20.0 inches (H x W x D), making its total volume a moderate 54.5 Liters. This is somewhat deceiving as it doesn’t account for the portion of the side panels that jut out — these extends its total width to 23.7 cm or 9.3 inches and total volume might be closer to 60 liters.


The front I/O ports are located above the 5.25 inch bays and include two USB 3.0 connectors, mic and headphone jacks, and a FireWire port. On the right side is an on/off toggle for the fan LEDs and a three-speed fan control switch.


The top of the chassis sports a large pop-out dust filter and a tray at the front for holding odds and ends whether it be loose change, USB thumb drives, or errant screws.


Pressing down on the the front/center releases the filter revealing the ceiling radiator/fan compartment. Tabs at the back hook the filter in place, but being properly secured at only spot in front makes it rather loose fitting.


The rear of the case reveals a bottom mounted power supply position, eight ventilated expansion slots, and a 120/140 mm fan placement occupied by a plain black 120 mm model. The side panels pull out front to back and are held on with captive thumbscrews.


On the underside is a slide-out filter covering the power supply fan and an optional 120/140 mm fan mount on the case floor. Also visible are thumbscrews that help secure the bottom drive cage inside, and a large gap under the front bezel which acts as an additional intake vent and a handhold for pulling off the panel.


The side panels are only 0.7 mm thick but the shape gives them surprising rigidity. Bars at the top and bottom both help with fit and reinforcement while the pushed out portion in the center adds stability and provides extra clearance on both sides of the case. The fan is attached with screws and rubber grommets and can be replaced with one or two 120/140 mm models.

INTERIOR

The internal construction of the Carbide 500R is generally good with a solid stiff feeling motherboard tray and 5.25 inch bays, and rolled edges along much of the interior. The drive cages however are on the thin side, not that well secured, and the fit could use some work as well.


The front panel can be simply pulled off, opening up access to the front fans and 5.25 inch bays. The intake fans are LED versions of the rear exhaust fan; all three have a nominal speed of 1200 RPM.


The front fan grill is fairly open but the mesh filter behind it is much more restrictive. The filter unfortunately can’t be removed without bending/straightening the metal tabs around the perimeter. The 5.25 inch bay covers above it have metal grills as well but they’re lined with light foam.


The interior offers few surprises as it conforms to the conventional layout for a modern tower case. The only notable aspect of the internal construction is the areas around the cable routing holes being pushed inward to give a little more room on the back side.


The drive cages are ventilated at the sides so even unused drive slots allow a decent amount of air to pass through as long as the individual trays are removed. The upper drive cage is secured to the edge of the motherboard tray with one screw while two more latch onto the bottom cage, but nothing tightens it against the optical drive bays.


The drive trays support both 2.5 and 3.5 inch drives, are made of flexible plastic, and fit rather loosely when snapped into place. The guides at the top and bottom of the cage don’t provide a great fit either so the cage can be wiggled slightly side to side with little effort.


Like most cases these days, the power supply position is elevated/damped by four rubber pads.


Along the large routing holes are several points for securing cabling. There is just 9 mm of room directly behind the motherboard, while the area around it offers 23 mm of clearance. The portion of the side panel that juts out also affords an additional 14 mm of space.

ASSEMBLY

The assembly process is fairly straightforward as all components are installed through traditional methods. There ample clearance for all components and plenty of space is provided for the side fan and the wires behind the motherboard tray thanks to the bulge-out design of the side panels.


The drive mounts have rubber grommets that protrude inward, keeping the drive from physically contacting the sides of the tray.


The fan controller has three headers with nonstandard 3-pin connectors in order to facilitate the toggling function for the lighting on the LED fans. The third pin is not used for RPM reporting and instead delivers power to light them. The black rear exhaust fan uses a regular 3-pin connector that can be forced into the fan controller but it’s far from a perfect fit. The LED fan cables can be jammed into standard 3-pin headers as well, but they won’t report the speed and the LEDs will only faintly glow.


Our build fit comfortably in the 500R but it should be noted that the 5.25 inch drive area would actually interfere with longer graphics cards. If your board has the PCI-E 16x slot in the very top slot position,this might be an issue. For our testing, the top drive cage is removed regardless to facilitate better airflow.


Our 16.0 cm tall Scythe Mugen Max heatsink (discounting the fan which can be lowered) has about 1.1 cm of room above it but more room is available for narrower coolers. The top edge actually sits directly below the tapered edge of the portion of the side panel that sticks outward so there is more clearance toward the center of the heatsink..


Cabling at the back.


As the side panel offers plenty of extra room, it’s not that important to keep all the cables tied down tightly.


The side fan overlaps the bottom corner of the CPU cooler but there’s still enough space for even the tallest of aftermarket heatsinks.


In a dark room the white LEDs provide a dazzling display.

TESTING

System Configuration:


Test system device listing.

Measurement and Analysis Tools

  • Prime95
    processor stress software.
  • FurMark
    stability test to stress the integrated GPU.
  • Asus GPU Tweak to monitor GPU temperatures and adjust fan speeds.
  • SpeedFan
    to monitor system temperatures and adjust system fan speeds.
  • Extech 380803 AC power analyzer / data logger for measuring AC system
    power.
  • PC-based spectrum analyzer:
    SpectraPlus with ACO Pacific mic and M-Audio digital

    audio interfaces.

  • Anechoic chamber
    with ambient level of 11 dBA or lower

Testing Procedures

The system is placed in two states: idle, and load using Prime95 (large FFTs setting) and FurMark, an OpenGL
benchmarking and stability testing utility. This puts more demand on the CPU and GPU than any real life application. Throughout testing, system temperatures, noise levels, and power consumption are recorded. During the load test, the system and GPU fans speeds are adjusted to various levels in an attempt to find an optimal balance between cooling and noise while maintaining a GPU temperature of 80°C (assuming an ambient temperature of 22°C).

Baseline Noise

For our baseline noise tests, the system is left idle, the CPU fan is set to its minimum speed under PWM control (400 RPM), and the GPU fans are off by default. The system fans are connected to controllable fan headers and are set to a variety of speeds using SpeedFan. This gives us a good idea of what the stock fans sound like at different speeds with minimal interference from other sources.


Some hard drive modifications.

It became apparent after the system was assembled that vibration from the hard drive was creating annoying intermittent buzzing noise. I squeezed some foam behind the drive cage to brace it and also applied some electrical tape along the sides of the drive tray to make it fit better, but the buzzing only improved noticeably when I pinched the handles of the tray together. A rubber band was employed to create the same effect.

Baseline Noise Level
(Idle, CPU fan at 400 RPM, GPU fans off)
Fan Speed Setting
Side Fan Speed
Rear Fan Speed
Avg. Front Fan Speed
SPL @1m
0%
N/A
16~17 dBA
30%
310 RPM
390 RPM
420 RPM
18 dBA
40%
440 RPM
570 RPM
600 RPM
20~21 dBA
50% (Low)
560 RPM
720 RPM
780 RPM
23~24 dBA
60%
670 RPM
850 RPM
910 RPM
26~27 dBA
80% (Med)
750 RPM
1060 RPM
1060 RPM
31 dBA
100% (High)
870 RPM
1230 RPM
1190 RPM
34 dBA
Measuring mic positioned 1m at diagonal angle left/front
of case.
Ambient noise level: 10~11 dBA@1m.

Hooked up to the motherboard, the fans set to 50%, 80%, and 100% produce similar fan speeds as the built-in fan controller on low, medium, and high, which generate noise levels of 23~24, 31, and 34 dBA@1m, respectively. The medium and high settings are very loud, but not unexpected for a case that’s geared toward performance rather than noise. If you’re into quiet computing, you don’t want to go above the low setting. Also note that these noise figures are with all four fans — you can actually only connect three fans to the controller unless you employ a compatible splitter.

The 500R ships with three different fan types with varying acoustic properties. The plain black fan at the back has the best sound, emitting a fairly smooth profile but with some underlying clickiness. However, this effect is only audible from the back of the case, so most users won’t be able to hear it. The front fans are more tonal as the motor produces a distinct hum and it sounds buzzy overall. At lower speeds, these properties dissipate but it’s still rather rough. The big side fan has a more consistent sound but it’s more annoying, especially if it’s facing you. It generates a whiny, electric twinge throughout its range.

Thankfully, when the sound produced by all the fans are combined, their individual weaknesses are less noticeable but there’s still some resilient tonal elements that remain. It sounds okay up to about 50% speed but beyond that the side fan’s profile begins to dominate. The 20 cm fan is actually noticeably louder than the smaller ones when running at the same relative speed.

TEST RESULTS

System Measurements (80°C Target GPU Temp)
System State
Idle
CPU + GPU Load
CPU Fan Speed
400 RPM (Min)
800 RPM
(60%)
Avg. System Fan Speed
390 RPM
(30%)
550 RPM
(40%)
710 RPM
(50%)
GPU Fan Speed*
Off
1210 RPM
(44%)
1090 RPM
(42%)
1030 RPM
(41%)
CPU Temp
29°C
59°C
57°C
55°C
MB Temp
34°C
42°C
38°C
35°C
SSHD Temp
31°C
31°C
30°C
29°C
GPU Temp
36°C
80°C
80°C
80°C
System Power (AC)
53W
350W
348W
349W
SPL@1m
18 dBA
25 dBA
25 dBA
26 dBA
*set as low as possible to maintain target GPU temperature on load.
Ambient temperature: 22°C.

As the 500R is equipped with a massive 20 cm fan blowing over most of the components, the video card fans have an easy time, even when the GPU is on full load. With the system fans running at 30% speed the GPU fans needs to spin at 1210 RPM (only about 200 RPM more than the minimum speed) in order to keep the GPU at 80°C. Further increases in system fan speed take more of the burden off, while temperatures across the board fall.

Both 30% and 40% system fan speed produce a total noise level of 25 dBA@1m but the 40% setting is the sweet spot as it boasts superior temperatures. The machine runs even cooler with 50% system fan speed (equivalent to the built-in fan controller’s low setting) but this causes the SPL to increase, so it’s not possible to make the system any quieter, at least not under our testing parameters. Regardless of the fan speeds used, the machine is exceptionally well-cooled as indicated by the total system power draw. This collection of parts rarely pull less than 350W. Cooler running circuitry is inherently more energy efficient.

If subjective noise is important, the acoustic quality of the GPU fans is paramount as the open vent on the side does a poor job of masking them. Luckily, the Asus GTX 980 Strix’s fans have a relatively good innocuous sound, even when exposed to the outside. Thus, on load, the system sounds similar to our baseline tests only with increased volume.

Case Comparison: System Measurements
(CPU + GPU Load, 80°C Target GPU Temp)
Case
SilverStone FT05
CM Silencio 652S
NZXT H440
Corsair 500R
BQ! Silent Base 800
Avg. System Fan Speed
2 x 500 RPM
1120 RPM (3 x 90%)
810 RPM
(3 x 60%)
550 RPM
(4 x 40%)
870 RPM
(3 x 70%)
GPU Fan Speed*
1000 RPM
1120 RPM
1410 RPM
1090 RPM
1320 RPM
CPU Temp
53°C
62°C
66°C
57°C
60°C
MB Temp
36°C
45°C
51°C
38°C
48°C
SSHD Temp
33°C
32°C
36°C
30°C
34°C
GPU Temp
80°C
80°C
80°C
80°C
80°C
System Power (AC)
346W
352W
358W
348W
353W
SPL@1m
[right side]
21~22 dBA
24 dBA
24 dBA
25 dBA
25~26 dBA
*set as low as possible to maintain target GPU temperature.
CPU fan at 800 RPM.
Ambient temperature: 22°C.

Compared to recently tested US$100+ cases, the Carbide 500R in our optimal fan speed configuration is a bit on the loud side but its temperatures are excellent, beaten only by the SilverStone Fortress FT05 with its unusual rotated motherboard design and twin 18 cm fans. It’s tough for the 500R to hide the noise coming out the side and front of the chassis, but the giant side fan has a huge cooling impact that easily makes up for it. Also keep in mind that we measure noise from the left of the chassis and among the cases listed above, the 500R is the only one with an open vent on that side. The machine is somewhat quieter if placed on the user’s left side, but then the luminuous glory of the side fan’s LEDs would go unseen.

AUDIO RECORDINGS

These recordings were made with a high resolution, lab quality, digital recording
system inside SPCR’s own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber, then converted to
LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We’ve listened long and hard to ensure there is no
audible degradation from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent
a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review.

Each recording starts with ambient noise, then 5~10 second segments of product
at various states. For the most realistic results,
set the volume so that the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then
don’t change the volume setting again while comparing all the sound files.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Being pushed as a performance case, the Corsair Carbide 500R certainly lives up to its billing. Airflow is key and while the front intake fans are restricted by its filter as much as a typical case, the substantial 20 cm side fan offsets this easily. Mounted to an open grill, it blows fresh cool air over the video card and the lower half of the board, resulting in the superior cooling for all the components, whether it’s the CPU near the top of the case or a hard drive installed all the way at the bottom. The top cover is also wisely fully ventilated as it should be to properly and efficiently expel hot air from a ceiling-mounted radiator.

Compatibility, another important factor, is handled well as there is sufficient space for just about any third party addition and plenty of clearance for cabling on the right side of the case. While it doesn’t go as low as I would like, the integrated fan controller is a welcome addition. The nonstandard connectors allow for the clever LED toggle feature, but it can be a pain if one of the fans or controller channels fails down the road.

With so many exposed vents, it’s not surprising the 500R is somewhat louder than most cases, but it wouldn’t be so bad if the fans had better acoustics. None of them sound particularly good, and the side fan produces an annoying high-pitched buzzing throughout its range. Tragically, the most effective fan is also the most annoying. Furthermore, it’s also the most difficult to replace as 200 mm fans aren’t cheap or plentiful. Hard drive mounting also needs to be more secure as the trays and cages fit against one another too loosely, resulting in unpleasant vibration-induced noise that require some fiddling to subdue.

The Carbide 500R is currently selling for US$110. At this price, it offers good value for users who prize cooling and compatibility. It unfortunately doesn’t hold quite as much appeal for most silencers as many of the case’s other aspects seem to have been neglected.

Our thanks to Corsair
for the Carbide 500R case sample.

* * *

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Be Quiet! Silent Base 800 ATX Tower
Cooler Master Silencio 652S Tower Case
SilverStone Kublai KL05 Budget ATX Case
NZXT H440 Mid Tower Case
NoFan CR-80EH & CS-60 Fanless Cooler & Case

* * *

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