Manufacturer: Cooler Master
UK price (as reviewed): £49.99 (inc. VAT)
US price (as reviewed): $59.94 (exc. tax)
If the case below looks familiar, it's because in many ways it is - Cooler Master has tweaked the popular MasterBox Q300L micro-ATX chassis, allowing it to house an ATX motherboard. This is exciting news, because not only can the MasterBox Q500L sit in two orientations, but it costs just £50 too, making it one of the cheapest ATX cases we've reviewed.
Side by side, you'd be hard-pressed to tell the difference between the two cases, as the dimensions are practically identical despite the MasterBox Q500L's ability to house the larger motherboard form factor. The side panel is acrylic rather than tempered glass, but standing a few feet away you can't really tell the difference. This allows the case to weigh in at under 5kg too, and the fact its length and height sit under 40cm means the MasterBox Q500L is both light and extremely compact.
Both side panels use a quartet of large thumb screws to hold them in place rather than anything more elaborate such as magnets or clips, but we are dealing with a case that costs £50 after all. The rear of the case betrays the fact it's ATX-capable, with more PCI expansion slots than its sibling plus a power cable port in a rather strange place too, although if you're paying attention you'll likely have noticed that there's no PSU mount here either, which explains the former.
The steel side panel thumbscrews are encased in large rubber shrouds, allowing the MasterBox Q500L to lay flat in horizontal mode with the acrylic panel facing up, so it's potentially a contender for fitting into larger TV cabinet recesses. Below you can see the MasterBox Q500L's party trick, namely magnetic removable dust filters that extend the full length of the front and roof of the case and use a snazzy design to break up the otherwise boxy exterior aesthetics. It's simple but effective, and we're surprised this feature hasn't been employed to this extent on other cases too.
The I/O panel sits on the side of the case and offers the usual ports and buttons, but we were pleased to see a pair of USB 3.0 ports rather than anything slower, despite the lowly price tag. This panel is part of the case's modular credentials, as it can be moved to other locations on this side of the case, with the acrylic side panel following suit, rotating to keep its cut-out sat over the panel's plastic housing - more on this later.
Sadly, while the base of the case also sports a dust filter, it's not as easily removable and is instead held in position using pins rather than magnets. Given the case's ability to lay on its side, this seems especially questionable; surely it would have been better to add a similar filter to the one on the roof to keep things symmetrical? Still, it's good to see Cooler Master has taken dust ingress seriously, especially in a very porous case such as this one.
September 18 2020 | 18:30