Cooler Master HAF 500 Review | PCMag

2022-04-24 07:37:50 By : Ms. Macy Chiang

It's all about the airflow

Superior cooling will put the Cooler Master HAF 500 case atop many buyers' shopping lists, but its good looks and great ventilation come at a cost: lack of filters and lightweight build quality.

When you buy a PC case from a company with a legendary name like Cooler Master, you might expect its primary purpose to be letting the heat out. Indeed, the initials of Cooler Master's HAF series chassis stand for High Air Flow, and the HAF 500 seen here is an exceptionally capable case from a thermal point of view. At $149.99, however, the HAF feels like it should be made of sterner stuff (read: more and stiffer steel) when you account for the full package. Still, this is a solid-performing chassis for those who put cooling before build quality.

The HAF 500 enclosure combines a tempered-glass panel on the left side with a painted steel sheet on the right, plus a mesh face panel up front. That last item covers two oversize 200mm intake fans that reinforce the airflow concept with bold presence.

A top that's almost entirely open and covered in a mesh sheet further conveys the max-airflow message, while a front panel at the leading edge of the top panel adds the convenience of a USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C port in addition to dual USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A ports.

Cooler Master repurposes the front-panel reset button as a mode selector for this model's RGB controller, surrounds the power button with an LED power-on indicator ring, hides the drive-activity LED behind a pinhole, and reduces front-panel audio connectors to a single combo jack. While we've always liked the idea of combo jacks, the fact remains that no splitter cable is included to support the double headphone/mic connectors of our legacy gaming headsets. Hmm. Perhaps our new headsets should come with a splitter to fit legacy cases instead!

Nothing about the HAF 500's rear panel is exceptional in terms of airflow, though it does have vented PCI Express slot covers. The fan mount accommodates only 120mm parts, with no provisions for a 140mm fan, and the double-pattern power supply mount allows users to flip their PSUs whichever way they feel will provide the best airflow, fan up or fan down.

The bottom panel includes a power-supply dust filter that slides out from the back and various mounting points that could be used to place water cooling accessories where the integrated drive cage resides in the default configuration.

Flipping the case over and removing the top filter sheet, you'll find slotted mounts for up to three 120mm or two 140mm fans, along with fixed mounting points for two 200mm fans. The panel clears the top of a motherboard by approximately 57mm, with additional horizontal motherboard clearance of 25mm for 280mm radiators and 45mm for 240mm or 360mm radiators.

An image in our copy of the user manual appeared to show a snap-off side panel, but the online version doesn't have this. And that's good, because the panel is actually secured with flat barbed tabs that must be individually unlatched to remove the panel without damage.

The two 200mm fans can be removed to fit a front panel radiator up to 3x120mm (a.k.a. 360mm), thanks to a bunch of alternative mounting points on the steel panel behind them.

Inside are a removable cable-concealment panel with about 11.3 inches (288mm) of motherboard clearance when installed, a slide-out power supply bay cover, and a drive cage with two 3.5-inch/2.5-inch combo trays within and a 120mm adjustable-angle fan on top. Removing the cable cover permits motherboards well beyond the 13-inch maximum of Extended ATX (EATX), but the HAF 500 doesn't have provisions for the extra standoffs that would be required to keep an extra-deep motherboard fully stable.

Angling the fan upward provides 68mm of radiator clearance in front of the drive cage, and sliding the power bay cover forward allows it to be lifted away. Given that the power supply mount is a full 260mm behind the drive bay, Cooler Master's suggestion of a maximum 180mm power supply depth appears a safe underestimation.

The drive cage's two trays provide screw fittings for 2.5-inch drives and side pins for 3.5-inch drives, the pins damped by rubber fittings.

Behind the motherboard tray are eight mounting points to support two 2.5-inch drives, as well as an RGB controller with a powered fan hub.  We can also see six cable passages in front of most motherboards, three of which are concealed from view by the cable cover mentioned above. The three non-concealed passages are lined with rubber grommets.

While the HAF 500's reset button is repurposed for use as an RGB mode button, the ability of the RGB controller to receive its commands from a motherboard RGB header means that some users might want to reposition the reset lead to serve its usual function. The circuit board hosts up to five RGB devices and four fans, with fan control provided by yet another motherboard lead.

As for the case dimensions, Cooler Master provides full measurements that actually include protruding hardware (rear panel screws) in its specifications, which we verified at 20.1 by 8.8 by 20.3 inches (HWD). This is truth in advertising that we'd love to see from its competitors.

The HAF 500 comes with a manual, tear-open screw pack and several cable ties. Unusual items in the screw pack include a Phillips #2 to socket adapter for repositioning motherboard standoffs, plus eight screw-in pins that allow for the push-mounting of solid-state drives to the back of the motherboard tray.

Front-panel cable connectors include a power button/LED group, HD Audio, a Gen 1-type cable for USB 3 Type-A ports, and a Gen 2 cable for the USB-C 3.2 port. The reset button's lead is separate, since it was repositioned to serve as a mode selector for the RGB controller.

Leads from the RGB controller include SATA-style power, motherboard RGB, and motherboard PWM for centralized fan control. The controller itself can act as a passive RGB hub when receiving a signal from a motherboard RGB header.

The HAF 500's relatively cavernous interior swallowed our full ATX build with room to spare, with its internal GPU cooling fan positioned almost vertically without hitting our GeForce RTX 2070 graphics card.

The finished build appears resplendent in rainbow mode, though of course you can configure it otherwise.

We're still using the highly rated FSP Dagger Pro 850W power supply in our test builds, thanks to this SFX unit's inclusion of a PS/2 (full ATX) adapter plate and long cables. Corsair provides the cooling with its iCUE H100i RGB Pro XT closed loop, while remaining hardware is pooled from previous review samples.

In terms of size, the silent-running-oriented SilverStone Seta Q1 is the closest match to the HAF 500 among recently reviewed cases, yet the Cooler Master's airflow stands out in our CPU temperature chart. The rivals will likely swap places in noise tests, but by how much?

Voltage-regulator temperature comparisons aren't quite fair in this situation, because we mounted the cooler in an optimal position for regulator cooling in the HAF 500. While the Seta Q1 is capable of holding our iCUE H100 RGB Pro XT cooler in the same place, putting it there would have required removal of its standard top-panel noise baffle, which would have blown away a big reason for getting that SilverStone case in the first place.

The scale of benefit for the HAF 500's internal GPU cooling fan is hard to determine, since the tiny Lian Li A4-H20 is closest to achieving its low GPU temperature. Since it's designed for optimal noise reduction, excessive internal temperatures likely contributed to the Seta Q1's significant loss here.

Surprisingly, the closed HAF 500's measured noise level was higher from the non-GPU side than the GPU side. We'll credit its glass side panel for reflecting some noise from that angle, as removing those panels returned the expected result of the side with the graphics card being louder. We should also note that we heard an audible drone from the right side's thin steel panel, which makes sense when we consider that even with the glass side, the entire unit weighs less than its rated 21 pounds. There's very little noise isolation overall when the HAF 500 is closed, since its design focuses on airflow without regard to noise.

For comparison, the SilverStone Seta Q1 was much quieter, though even its noise-reducing design wasn't close to silent. Conversely, the A4-H2O's right side panel vents were placed right next to its graphics card. The best thing we can say about any of these cases regarding noise is that users shouldn't expect their systems to be as raucous as ours under real-world conditions, as most will choose automatic fan control rather than manually setting their fans to maximum RPM.

Cooler Master's HAF 500 offers similar hardware volume and superior airflow at a price $60 lower than the recently reviewed SilverStone Seta Q1. System builders who'd favor the HAF 500's added RGB lighting and tempered-glass side panel will be well served, particularly if they're willing to choose their components carefully to mitigate the case's lack of noise damping. The lack of intake-fan dust filtration is a problem that can't be solved aesthetically in a case that uses its intake fans as a focal point, but if you're a neatnik at home and dust isn't a big factor in your workspace, the HAF 500 is an affordable, roomy, and good-looking choice if you'd like a big, air-cooled wind tunnel of a case.

Superior cooling will put the Cooler Master HAF 500 case atop many buyers' shopping lists, but its good looks and great ventilation come at a cost: lack of filters and lightweight build quality.

Sign up for Lab Report to get the latest reviews and top product advice delivered right to your inbox.

This newsletter may contain advertising, deals, or affiliate links. Subscribing to a newsletter indicates your consent to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. You may unsubscribe from the newsletters at any time.

Your subscription has been confirmed. Keep an eye on your inbox! is a leading authority on technology, delivering Labs-based, independent reviews of the latest products and services. Our expert industry analysis and practical solutions help you make better buying decisions and get more from technology.

© 1996-2022 Ziff Davis. PCMag Digital Group

PCMag, and PC Magazine are among the federally registered trademarks of Ziff Davis and may not be used by third parties without explicit permission. The display of third-party trademarks and trade names on this site does not necessarily indicate any affiliation or the endorsement of PCMag. If you click an affiliate link and buy a product or service, we may be paid a fee by that merchant.