Cooler Master Storm Trooper Review

Product: Cooler Master Storm Trooper
Company: Cooler Master
Author: Nicholas Conroy
Editor: Charles Oliver
Date: June 18th, 2012

Test Build and Last Impressions

The following hardware was used for the test system:

  • MSI P67A-GD65 Motherboard
  • Intel i5-2500K CPU
  • Corsair Vengeance 8GB DDR3 RAM
  • Powercolor HD6950 2GB Graphic Card
  • Western Digital Caviar Blue 500GB 3.5” HDD
  • Seagate Momentus 500GB 2.5” HDD
  • Seasonic X-750 750W power supply

Installation of the test system into the CM Storm Trooper took approximately one hour. Large cases like the Trooper are a joy to work with, particularly when using a standard ATX sized motherboard. While smaller mid tower cases are generally less costly, full towers will still save time and generally provide better airflow. The design of the Trooper makes it very easy to keep cables out of the way of airflow and hidden from sight behind the motherboard tray. With minimal time spent on cable management, it is still possible to create a very aesthetically pleasing and clean system build (provided we ignore the mess of wires beneath the right side-panel).

The only hitch that occurred during installation was hooking up the Trooper’s “X-Dock” external 2.5” bay, which requires a standard SATA cable and Molex power plug. Its position high up in the case makes attaching the SATA cable very awkward for anyone with big hands. It is advisable to connect the X-Dock before any optical drives are installed. However once hooked up, the dock interfaced perfectly with our test 2.5” laptop drive.

As we can see the cutout in the motherboard tray is big enough to accommodate most heat-sink back plates and all but the most unusual motherboard CPU socket placements. A case like the Trooper is likely to see many motherboards and CPU coolers pass through it during its lifetime and a large cutout such as this will help ease the user through these hardware transitions.

Last Impressions and a Word about Standards

The CM Storm Trooper does a very good job of presenting itself as a no nonsense, gamer oriented powerhouse. It is fast and efficient both to use and move short distances. It has the flash of LEDs fans but the control to turn them off when they are not wanted. Although the stock fans are already very quiet under full power, there is still a slick six speed fan controller to keep the fans whispering. And it is exactly at this moment when we touch the fan control buttons that the Trooper ruins the image it has built built up. That is because someone made the grave mistake of making the Trooper beep whenever the fan controls are touched. This would not be an issue if this beep were not exactly the same beep that every microwave oven in existence utters when its buttons are pressed. While it is nice that the Cooler Master engineers went to the trouble of adding in any kind of audible signal, we believe that it would have been better to simply leave the Trooper’s fan controller silent. After prolonged use, we are overcome by the urge to either not use the fan controller at all or simply pull out the PCB and silence it forever with a soldering iron.

Before we move on to our conclusion there is still a matter of motherboard standards that must be addressed.

The CM Strom Trooper claims to support a mother board standard dubbed XL-ATX. While it is tempting to think that XL-ATX is the same as Extended ATX, the truth is they are different standards. To get to the bottom of this we must first start with the original ATX standard which was laid down by Intel in 1995. A full size ATX motherboard is currently defined as being 12 inches wide and 9.6 inches deep, allowing for a maximum of 7 expansion slots. Extended ATX on the other hand is defined as being 12 inches wide and up to 13 inches deep, again only allowing for seven expansion slots. While the majority of Extended ATX motherboards are used for servers, there are also a handful of high performance consumer motherboards that also use this label despite most being well short of the 13inch maximum depth. They are labeled Extended ATX merely because they are more than 9.6inches deep. Finally we come to XL-ATX which is the newest and most nebulous ATX motherboard standard. The XL-ATX name originates from 2009 when EVGA used it to describe the form factor of their 13.5 inch wide and 10.3 inch deep X58 Classified motherboard. However, a quick search online reveals new motherboards from MSI and Gigabyte that are 13.58 inches wide and 10.39 inches deep that also bear the XL-ATX name. Although all of these motherboards have the space for up to nine expansion slots the most we see on the boards is eight, largely because of space taken up by chipset cooling. Here we can see why the CM Storm Trooper can be called an XL-ATX chassis: it has nine expansion slots and an extra row of holes at the bottom for motherboard standoffs. Because the XL-ATX standard is still somewhat murky, we have to wonder where the size limit is for the Trooper.

The 12.7" limit Cooler Master gives us for graphics card length can logically be used to rule out full Extended ATX compliance, but we can see an issue well before that point. At motherboard depths over 10 inches we can see the cable cutouts in the motherboard tray will start to become obscured. While we can conceivable work around this for depths up to 10.4 inches, it becomes progressively worse until the ports are completely blocked at the 11 inch mark. The important point we can take away here is that the Trooper should still be able to accommodate nearly any future XL-ATX motherboards even if they are a little bit deeper than the fuzzy 10.3-10.4inch standard. We can also see that the Trooper can also accommodate a few self-proclaimed Extended ATX motherboards that are actually only slightly deeper than normal ATX. Two good examples of motherboards that fall into this category are the EVGA Z77 FTW and the ASUS Rampage IV Extreme.

Now that we have thoroughly bored you with all this talk about depths and inches, it is finally time to come to a verdict on the Trooper.