Saturday, August 18, 2012

Rosewill Challenger Gaming Case

Rating: 5 out of 5
Pros: Screw-less design, included 2.5"-3.5" adapter, lots of cooling options and included fans
Cons: None really... maybe one motherboard screw location requiring a short screwdriver

On paper the Rosewill Challenger Gaming Case looked pretty good and seemed to have all of the features I required, as well as some that I considered to be bonuses. After finding it on sale for $29.99 shipped to the door I decided to give it a shot for a computer I was assembling for my mother instead of using the Antec 300 that I normally use for builds. It turned out to be a really nice budget case that was pleasant to work with so I will probably use again in the future.

This build:

AMD FX-4100 Quad-Core Processor
Cooler Master GX-450 Power Supply
G.SKILL Ripjaws X Series 16GB DDR3 1600
Gigabyte GA-970A-D3 Motherboard
MSI Radeon HD 6450 1GB Video Card
Rosewill Challenger Gaming Case
Rosewill 40-in-1 Internal Card Reader
Samsung Spinpoint F4 EcoGreen 2TB Hard Drive
Zalman N Series 2.5" Solid-State Drive 

The Rosewill Challenger Gaming Case measures about 7.48" wide, 17.08" tall, 18.5" deep and weighs 12.76 pounds. This makes it a mid-tower case, and it will accept full size ATX motherboards as well as MicroATX boards. The box comes with a small 9 page user manual that has installation instructions with some pretty nice diagrams, and it's actually written in English that can be understood (which is rare these days). The case is backed up by a 1 year limited warranty.

The case is a nice flat black color that does not retain fingerprints. The paint is good and not easily rubbed or scratched off, which is always a plus. The main body of the case is made of SECC steel and the front bezel is made of black plastic. It features two USB 2.0 ports, an eSATA port and audio input/output ports in the front of the case for easy access. As for drive bays, it has three 5.25" drive bays for things like DVD burners, two external 3.5" drive bays for things like floppy drives or card readers, and five more internal 3.5" bays for hard drives. Seven expansion slots in the back round out the expansion capabilities of this case.
The Challenger comes with three fans preinstalled. This includes a 120mm rear exhaust fan, a 140mm top exhaust fan, and a 120mm fan in the front to pull air across the hard drives and through the case. The front fan also lights up with blue LEDs, and while it does put off quite a bit of light at least it's not glaringly bright. I figured that worst case scenario I would just swap it with the rear fan if it was too bright because the light in the back wouldn't be as bothersome, but it hasn't been necessary. The rear fan has a regular 3-pin fan connector, while the front and top fans both have 4-pin molex connectors with pass-throughs. There are also mounting holes for two more 120mm fans in the side panel if you decide you want to install more in the future.
The power supply is mounted in the bottom of this case instead of in the top, which is one feature I really like in a case because it helps the case remain stable by lowering the center of gravity. There is some type of felt padding around the power supply area to help isolate it, and while it's a nice feature it was just far enough off that it was halfway covering a couple of the power supply screw holes. It wasn't a big deal though as the screws still went in just fine. The power supply can also be mounted either direction, and the bottom of the case has a filtered air hole if you chose to install it with the fan facing down. I chose to install mine with the fan facing up, but if you install it the other way make sure it's on a flat level surface and clean the filter regularly though so that it doesn't get too hot.
The front of the case is made of a steel mesh (with dust filters) to help with case cooling, which is pretty common these days. What isn't so common is the rear expansion slot covers also being made of mesh. This was especially nice since I bought some SilverStone Aero Slot covers for an earlier build and they were $10 for a package of four. I wasn't planning on getting any for this build, but if I had this would have saved me the $10. One final thing I want to mention about cooling is the fact that the case has two holes pre-cut in the rear of the case at the top for water cooling piping.
There is no removable motherboard tray, but there is a big cutout so that you can get to the back of the motherboard under the processor for some kinds of processor cooling options. The Challenger also features a screw-less design for securing drives, which I always find handy. This includes the use small pieces with pegs for the 5.25" drives and drive rails for internal hard drives. The internal hard drive area is set sideways so that the drives face one side of the case or the other instead of facing backward towards the motherboard, which makes it more convenient for working with the cables and connectors.
The drive rails are nice too because they can be reversed so that you can install the hard drives in either direction; it just requires popping the pegs out and moving them to a different hole in the rail and then it fits in there facing the other direction. By default the drive rails let you install the drives facing towards the right, but I chose to switch them so that they face the same way as everything else in the case so that I only have to remove one side panel to access most things. Otherwise I would have to take off the right side to access the hard drive connectors and the other side to get to the motherboard, which just seems like extra work to me.
Surprisingly the case actually came with 10 drive rails, which is enough to fill all five of the internal 3.5" bays. It also came with a plastic 3.5" to 2.5" adapter, which allows you to install two 2.5" solid-state drives or hard drives into a single internal 3.5" bay. I made use of this to install the single solid-state drive that was going into this system, and it worked well.
Despite the screw-less design, the Challenger came with plenty of screws for the motherboard, hard drives and optical drives; it also came with enough motherboard standoffs to mount a full size ATX motherboard with a couple to spare, which is always nice. The standoffs went in fine, but I had to screw a couple of them in with my needle-nose pliers because there was a tiny bit of the interior black paint in the screw holes that made them tough to insert by hand. They went in smooth with the pliers though (or a small nut driver).
The only other issue I had with the case was putting the middle screw in the top of the motherboard. The hole was very close to the top of the case, and the edge of the case where the side panel slides into was in the way just enough that I couldn't get my regular screw driver in there straight enough to insert the screw. I tried removing the 140mm fan hoping that it would give me enough clearance, but it was still a no-go so I put it back in place and dug out a shorter screw driver. Not a real problem, but just slightly annoying.
The cables from the front of the case for the USB, eSATA, audio and the lights/switches were all plenty long enough to reach anywhere in the case. There is no case speaker mounted in the case, but it did come with a nickel-sized speaker attached to wires that you can just plug into the motherboard and let it hang there. Looks like it will work just fine, and certainly better than the non-existent case speaker in my Antec 300 case.
The case has a lot of features, is sturdy, solid and well designed. It was really a pleasure to work with and makes for an easy recommendation, especially for such an inexpensive price tag.

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