In and Around the Corsair Carbide Air 540

I was enthusiastic about what became the Carbide AIr 540 from the prototyping stages, but I was at least a little curious as to how Corsair was going to handle the ID. With most of their other cases, their designs were fairly simple and clean, but this is something different. It's asymmetrical, not just internally, but externally. I think they really hit it out of the park, though; the Air 540 looks almost like a baby server.

Looking at the front of the Carbide Air 540, the dual-chambered design is pretty evident: on the left hand side, behind the front mesh vent, is the main system chamber that houses the motherboard, CPU, and expansion cards. It's sized exactly large enough to fit an ATX motherboard and radiators in the top and front. On the right side are the two 5.25" drive bays, positioned above the I/O and power and reset buttons. That row of I/O lines up beautifully with the Corsair logo in the front mesh.

Roll the Air 540 on to it's front, and the line of mesh venting continues along the top of the enclosure. Note too that the mesh vents are actually very easy to remove: the top mesh is secured with two thumbscrews on the back, and once you slide it off, you can lift and remove the front mesh. That front mesh also has places for you to secure it with screws if you're so inclined, but if the 540 is assembled correctly, everything stays firmly in place.

Since there aren't any unsightly drive bays in the primary chamber (just the two sleds on the bottom), Corsair has windowed the left side panel almost completely. However you feel about windows on cases, I think it's hard not to feel like it makes sense with the 540. Meanwhile, the right side panel has ventilation above the power supply bay, but that's it. It's worth noting that both side panels are hinged and held in place with thumbscrews.

The back of the 540 gives you a much clearer idea of how everything is laid out internally. Behind the primary chamber is the power supply bay, and then above that are the 2.5" drive cages. Corsair is using the same cages they used in the Obsidian 350D, and while I don't care for the plastic that much, they definitely get the job done. Corsair's still a step ahead of the competition here; toolless 2.5" drive cages or sleds are still uncommon. Note the middling clearance of the 140mm exhaust fan; in experimenting with the 540 I found that some 140mm fans wouldn't even actually fit (or at least not easily), and I don't believe you could realistically install a 140mm radiator back here.

The primary interior chamber of the 540 doesn't actually include much in the way of surprises. This is as basic as it gets: fans, motherboard mount, routing holes, and the two drive sleds at the bottom. That's it. It's still exciting, though: Corsair has taken all of the heat-generating components of a PC and almost completely separated them from the rest by placing them in a chamber with virtually unobstructed airflow.

If anything, the rear chamber is almost a little disappointing. There's a tremendous amount of negative space back here which is good for hiding cabling, but I feel like we could've had a smarter, cleaner assembly of drive cages. This is always the unsightly side of an enclosure, yet there's definitely room for improvement here. Worth mentioning, though, is that this is the first case I've tested that had an essentially toolless power supply mount.

There's something ultimately very fresh about the Corsair Carbide Air 540's design. We're walking a road less travelled here, so I'm more inclined to give Corsair the benefit of the doubt and some leeway on some of their design choices because I know they were largely building their template from scratch. This is unlike anything else in their line, let alone most manufacturers' lines.

Introducing the Corsair Carbide Air 540 Assembling the Corsair Carbide Air 540


View All Comments

  • Kevin G - Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - link

    Agreed. This case is just begging for a front mounted hot swap back plane in that side chamber.

    It also would have been nice to see a second PSU mount in the side chamber too for those who like to run multiple PSU's for their multiple GPU setups. I would howver default this area to the internal 2.5" drive cage.

    The 3.5" bays at the bottom of the main chamber aren't a bad idea but storage really should all be located in the side chamber.
  • Sabresiberian - Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - link

    Since most large cases fill up their "empty space" with drive cages that I don't use, the "wasted" space in the back is no problem at all for me. Still, I agree, I would like to have seen something like more drive bays in sections that you could pull out if you didn't need or want in there.

    And, it's in the back chamber and so not visible. Personally I don't care for the way drive bays look anyway, so that is a very good solution for me. :)
  • Subyman - Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - link

    I wouldn't say this is a case pushing the boundaries. Its more of a case bringing a Case Labs design to a new price bracket. Has Anandtech ever done a Case Labs review? Reply
  • GoliathPtXs - Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - link

    i love this case, right when i saw it at computex 2013 i fell for it, but it could be thinner indeed.
    hard drives should be in the back, not under a gpu... gpus eat up for themselfs, don't need help from the hdds... they should be in the back compartment with the ssds and the annoying opticals, also, the back compartment should have a exaust fan at least

    i'm still waiting for manufacturers start producing REAL gaming cases, with no optical drives... you can download all games nowadays.

    i do know this is not a "gaming case" but still... all mid towers are gaming cases...
  • genghisquan - Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - link

    If the user wants to put in some high-end performance HDD, then they will need to get some airflow. That's why the put them in the front. I still agree with you that they should've put the HDDs in the back, though. If there was a HDD cage in the back, then this case could easily fit 4-5 HDD with at least 4 SSD along with it. With that amount of HDD, though, then they'd definitely have to put an intake fan on the secondary compartment, but I don't think that'd destroy the case. Reply
  • dpimente - Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - link

    This Case is more of a pure desktop, and not for entry level users either. With that said, there shouldn't even be HDD's. Clearly it's designed with SSD's in mind, thus I feel the 2 x 3.5" HDD bays were merely adding in for the interim. Reply
  • JDG1980 - Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - link

    I understand the importance of using a consistent testbed platform, but I think you do an injustice to direct-airflow cases like the 540 and RV04 by using the ASUS GeForce GTX 560 Ti DCII TOP video card. The problem is that this card has heatsink fins that are perpendicular to the airflow, not parallel - so the air can't go across the length of the heatsink, and cooling performance is substantially reduced. I suspect you would have gotten much better results if you used a card like the ASUS DirectCU GTX660-DC2O-2GD5 (which does have parallel fins) or one of the MSI Twin Frozr models. The Arctic Accelero S1 Plus aftermarket cooler would probably also work very well.

    Building a serious PC entails designing an overall *system*, not just throwing a bunch of components together in a box based on whatever Newegg has for sale this week.
  • genghisquan - Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - link

    I'm confused because the GTX 560 Ti DCII TOP has two fans, but the cards that are shown in the assembly picture look like they're are using single blower style fans. LOL. Reply
  • thesavvymage - Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - link

    I believe the ones in the picture are the 580s that they are using for sli Reply
  • Sabresiberian - Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - link

    I wish I had a purpose for a new case, I'd very likely buy one of these. It is innovative and attractive enough that I think Corsair deserves a pat on the back, and what better way to pat a company on the back than spend your money on one of their products. :) Considering the price of many tower cases, I think it's something of a bargain.

    Well written and thorough review Dustin, thanks!

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